Air Traffic Control Academy coming to Craig Field

Published 12:34 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

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Advanced ATC Inc., an air traffic control academy based in Valdosta, Ga., announced at a press conference held at Craig Field Thursday their plans to invest approximately $4.7 million to establish the Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center, the first-ever in the U.S. along with an international air traffic control training academy, the first of its kind in the world.

Growing in popularity in Europe, the recent technological advancement uses camera, real-time video and other features that enables air traffic controllers to remotely accomplish the duties they would normally carry out in a traditional control tower.

“Remote towers represent an important and innovative step in airspace modernization efforts in the U.S., and I’m excited to see Advanced ATC establish its pioneering operation at Craig Field,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “This virtual tower represents another example of how our state is at the leading edge of trends shaping the future of aviation and aerospace for the U.S.”

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Canfield added he and his colleagues who work for the state Department of Commerce believe rural Alabama is capable of punching above its weight class when it comes to bringing in new companies.

“What I mean by that is you can attract cutting-edge companies that are bringing in leading technology, that are innovating and disrupting industry sectors,” he said. “We believe disruption creates opportunity, and that’s what we have here with Advanced ATC today.

“That the remote tower configuration and the digital technology to be able to run air traffic control from a remote tower anywhere in the world, but to be able to do it here in Selma, Alabama, is a great testament to the local leadership and the collaboration that had to take place to bring all of this together. I really think this particular project is going to put Craig Field back on the map and will be a draw for other activity into the future.”

According to Advanced ATC officials, the remote tower in Selma will be equipped to support aviation expansion and provide air traffic control services for up to 40 airports in the U.S.

“The outlook for small airports to be able to afford ATC service without the requirement to build a $5-10 million control tower is now available with the advancement of camera and satellite technologies changing almost daily,” said Dan Cunningham, Chief Operating Officer for Advanced ATC. “The Selma RTC will be the catalyst for this historic change in the United States.”

The company’s five-year plan seeks to bring as many as 119 jobs to Selma, with a payroll of $8 million. Initially the company will hire 28 people to operate the facility at Craig Field within the first year, with a payroll of $3.1 million.

Indra Corp, an aviation navigation systems company, will partner with Advanced ATC and contribute staffing, software and logistics for each remote tower system established in North America.

The international training academy will afford operational training and certifications for between 25 and 50 students annually.

“After several years of working with the Craig Field Airport Authority and the Selma & Dallas County Economic Development Authority, we are thankful for them being able to promote this project with the Alabama Department of Commerce and Governor Kay Ivey,” said Monica Cunningham, President of Advanced ATC. “We are thrilled to reach a win-win agreement and are very anxious to get started making aviation history at Craig Field.”

Wayne Vardaman, Executive Director of the Selma & Dallas County Economic Development Authority, said he’s eager to see how the new additions will impact Craig Field.

“(Executive Director of the Craig Field Airport & Industrial Authority) Jim Corrigan   and I have been working on this project since I first brought it to him and have very high expectations on how it can attract future aviation to Craig Field,” Vardaman said.

Corrigan welcomed the companies and their technological capabilities to Selma.

“Craig Field is proud to host Advanced ATC, Indra Corp., and this cutting-edge technology,” Corrigan said. “This capability will provide controlled airspace and open the doors to future aviation development at this historic location.”

When asked for a timeline of when to expect the new additions to be operational, Corrigan said the academy would accept its first class in September and the remote air traffic control tower will be certified in December. He added Craig Field will also have a manned air traffic control tower.

Dallas County Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman Jimmy Nunn and the Dallas County Commission played a vital role in helping Craig Field regain control of several buildings Alabama Law Enforcement Agency had used for a police academy. The buildings will be rehabilitated and used by Advanced ATC to house training academy students and for their corporate offices.

“Advanced ATC and Indra (Corp), they could have located their company anywhere within these United States,” Nunn said. “They could have located their company anywhere within the 67 counties of the state of Alabama. They could have located their company anywhere within the 461 municipalities within the state of Alabama, but they saw something good in Selma and Dallas County, Alabama. They chose us.”

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said bringing the first remote air traffic control tower to Selma was a “win-win” scenario for all parties involved in the process.

“Once again, Selma is on the cutting edge of something that is truly great,” Perkins said.