Land near the Albany International Airport is under consideration for a new regional air traffic control center to replace two Federal Aviation Administration facilities on Long Island.
An FAA team visited the Albany airport earlier this month and U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, has written the FAA a letter of support.
The FAA is planning to build a new control center somewhere in eastern New York as part of a long-term effort to convert its aging control centers from radar to GPS and other new flight-monitoring technologies.
But an Albany relocation proposal will meet with strong interests that want to keep the regional air traffic control center somewhere on Long Island, including the Long Island congressional delegation and the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association,
“We’d love to get it,” said John O’Donnell, CEO of the Albany International Airport, who spoke of it at a small business forum held at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs on Monday.
“It would be a great opportunity for the region,” said Tonko, who hosted the forum along with U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh. “Locating here would lower their cost of labor, and it would build on this region’s development as a technology hub.”
An integrated air traffic control center would employ about 800 people, managing commercial air traffic. The center would manage upper-altitude traffic in the busy airspace around John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International airports. It is generally considered the busiest airspace in the country.
The FAA says it plans on replacing the existing centers with an “operational air traffic control campus,” with approximately 250,000 square feet of buildings. A single integrated center will be replacing separate FAA control centers in Westbury and Islip, which manage high-altitude overflights and flight traffic approaching the New York area airports.
New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all were initially under consideration. But under pressure from New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, the FAA agreed to keep the facility in New York state.
In December, the FAA advertised for proposals from owners of between 34 and 49 acres of land within 150 miles of New York City, and within New York state. All responses were due by Jan. 31, and at least 46 proposals were received.
When the FAA will make a decision remains unclear.
An Albany facility would be at the outer edge of the 150-mile radius imposed by the FAA.
“While the FAA has completed some preliminary engineering and design work for the new facility, a final location has not been determined at this time,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters told The Gazette via email. “The FAA’s future NextGen facilities will house employees who perform a variety of duties in one place, including both high-altitude and low-altitude separation of traffic. This will make it easier to coordinate the air traffic, particularly in a heavily used and congested airspace.”
The current New York sites are at the ends of their useful lives, the statement said.
O’Donnell said the Albany airport has offered three different 35- to 50-acre sites near the airport, on land owned by the airport authority or Albany County.
“We look at it as a significant investment in the region that would have an immediate return,” O’Donnell said after the forum.
In March, Tonko wrote to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta in support of a control center move to Albany, citing lower labor costs in the Capital Region than on Long Island.
“Relocation of this site to Albany could save the FAA an estimated $500 million over the 30-year life of the new building with a majority of these savings coming from a lower ‘locality pay’ rate in the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area,” Tonko wrote.
He also cited secondary educational facilities such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, where he said the next generation of air traffic control technology could be developed.