Pinal Airpark may soon have a much-needed air traffic control tower thanks to a successful amendment added by U.S. Congressman Juan Ciscomani to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization package which passed the House last week.
Currently, there is no tower at Pinal Airpark, which raises safety and operational challenges for the airpark and stifles economic growth. More than 100,000 commercial and military flight operations are conducted at the airpark each year.
“I am thrilled to see the Pinal Airpark prioritized in this year’s bipartisan FAA reauthorization package,” said Ciscomani. “This is a step in the right direction to encourage growth in the county and region, while making our skies safer.”
Jeffrey McClure, who serves as the Vice Chairman for the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and is the representative to the board for part of the Copper Corridor, thanked the Congressman for these efforts.
“Providing Pinal Airpark with an air traffic control tower not only improves safety in the area but will create jobs, spur economic development, and enhance critical military readiness and training,” said McClure.
Parrish Traweek, who manages both the Pinal Airpark and the San Manuel Ray Blair Airport, agreed with McClure.
“We need that tower,” Traweek said, “but it won’t affect (the San Manuel) airport. They have been working on Control Towers for both Pinal Airpark and Marana airport for many years. Local pilots will need to be proficient in flying into and around controlled airspace, which extends several miles around the control towered airport once the tower is online.”
He explained that the small airports in the county do not have controlled airspace, but sometimes there are temporary flight restrictions around local airports that pilots must obey – usually during a wildfire when fire crews are staging at local airports. Pinal Airpark, he said, is a 25-minute flight from San Manuel’s airport, so pilots flying into Pinal Airpark will need to remember how to get in and out of the controlled airspace.
Except for San Manuel Airport and Pinal Airpark (which are owned by the county), the other airports in the county are municipally owned: Kearny, Coolidge, Eloy, Casa Grande and Superior. Superior’s airport is the only one with an unpaved runway and is the only one that does not have hangars.
Superior Mayor Mila Besich said that paving the runway at the airport is a complicated issue, but one they are currently working on.
“We have a study on paving it but finding the grant funding can’t happen till we have so many tail numbers. We also need to get out fire hydrants in first so we can build hangars,” Besich said. “The glider company is our first business venture and we are on the list to receive a federal earmark for the hydrants and the water infrastructure to the BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum).”