CGZ to operate as non-towered airport during Copperstate Fly-In

CASA GRANDE, Arizona — Each October, pilots arriving for the Copperstate Fly-In at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport (CGZ) have been greeted by an enthusiastic crew of FAA air traffic controllers, drawn from facilities throughout the western United States, all proud to have been selected to staff the temporary Copperstate Control Tower. This year, however, things will be different.

While both management and controllers from the air traffic control facilities involved are eager to support this year’s fly-in, slated for Oct. 24-26, the FAA’s implementation of a user fee structure to fund such operations has dictated otherwise, Copperstate officials said.

For the first time in the 40-year history of the event, Copperstate organizers would be required to pay a user fee, of many thousands of dollars, to cover controller salaries, overtime, travel and other expenses. To add insult to injury, the FAA also declared the military surplus control tower that Copperstate has provided for the past 10 years (and which has worked flawlessly, unlike the FAA tower used previously) to be unsuitable for controller use, organizers note. Of course, the cost of the FAA-mandated portable control tower, and the technical staff to support it, would be added to the bill, officials added.

As a totally volunteer, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, Copperstate takes great pride in running a “lean and mean” operation, maximizing the funds available to fulfill its mission of providing scholarship programs for young men and women seeking careers in the aerospace industry. While the FAA has never provided a firm quote of the costs demanded for this year’s temporary tower — despite numerous requests that they do so — off-the-record estimates and a perusal of reimbursable agreements paid by similar events make it clear that payment cannot be made without severely compromising, if not eliminating, the scholarship programs.

Fortunately, there is an alternative: Casa Grande Municipal Airport is a non-towered airport — and it will simply remain so during the fly-in. While traffic volume is expected to be high, a safe environment for air operations can be maintained by eliminating the operational complexity of previous years, which was primarily due to the use of special traffic patterns for local flights (passenger rides, factory demos, showcase, etc.). During this year’s event, these special traffic patterns have been eliminated, and all pilots will follow standard recommended practices for operations at non-towered airports.

While Copperstate’s usual Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) will disappear along with the tower, much of the fly-in information previously provided by the NOTAM can now be found in a Notice To Pilots, published on the Copperstate website. This information is provided as a courtesy to pilots, who are reminded that all operations during the event are at the pilot’s own risk and discretion, organizers said.


  1. Mark A says

    Not sure it will make much difference. Flew in last year and wound up with two red and white cessnas on final…. I made a 360 so the other guy (not talking to the tower) could land. Keep your eyes outside is the rule for the flyin.

  2. Jess Meyers says

    I believe that the FAA is funded from all of our purchases of fuel parts and services are taxed to fund said operation. Is it illegal for them to hold out? Our Class B in KLAS have been changed and implimented before the maps are out, Real Safe?

  3. G Brewer says

    What about contacting USCTA, the contract tower association, for a quote? I’ll bet they can beat any FAA quote by a lot.

  4. Chris says

    I fly into this airport on a regular basis and agree that as long as all pilots adhere to non-towered procedures everything should go well. However the fact that a temporary tower was implemented in previous years for this event (for safety!!!) should speak volumes… the FAA is trading safety for money and I am not cool with that.

  5. drew says

    i recommend we start a campaign to eliminate the osh tower.

    given the lower traffic this year it seems superfluous. and is a complete waste the rest of the year.

    • Todd says

      I agree. I fly into OSH in the off season, sometimes in the dark dead of winter, or even on a fall day, and ask myself why they are there. It is like have someone watch me park my car. If we close the OSH tower, the FAA can use that money come July/August for EAA.

  6. Dr. Kenneth Nolde says

    This is what you get when the government simply does not care. I do not think I will attend, but if I do I will be careful and I urge everyone else to do the same–heads out of the cockpit!

  7. says

    Rich is right, Just follow standard procedures and look out the windows. We have no problems at the AAA fly in at Blakesburg, but is is an “invitational” so every one knows what to expect. Keep your heads on a swivel, radio calls short and clear the runway quickly, do that and this will work out great. Good luck to all and have fun.

  8. Richard says

    We grew up without control towers and flight can safely be achieved if we stay alert and keep our eyes outside the cockpit! Be patient and fly safe.

  9. Rich says

    Excellent. Tell the FAA to go to hell and have your party without them.

    Now pilots, be on your toes, follow procedures and have a safe trip.

    See you in a couple months.

  10. John Brecher says

    What a shame that a few spoiled “brat” children in Wash DC can cause so much hurt to millions of citizens. If they were our children 50 years ago, we would spank them and send them to bed and it would be over.

  11. Linda S. Berl says

    Please persevere. I think the government seeks to destroy our flying spirit and ground us all.
    Best wishes to everyone for this year’s Copperstate event. Blue skies and tailwinds.

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