The FAA has declared the Saab remote tower system at Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport (KJYO) “operationally viable,” authorizing ATC services to continue there using this system. Leesburg has been Saab’s U.S. test site for its remote tower technology and in 2019 was granted approval from the FAA to conduct an initial operational phase, during which time certified controllers safely managed more than 75,000 operations at the airport.
Monday’s announcement “brings us even closer to an FAA-certified, lower-cost alternative for U.S. general aviation airports needing to replace their aging towers, or for busy airports similar to Leesburg seeking to add ATC services,” said Saab Inc. president and CEO Erik Smith. An FAA spokesman told AIN that agency certification of Saab’s remote tower is “not currently expected before the end of 2024.”
The system at Leesburg includes fixed high-definition cameras and controller displays, as well as maneuverable optical and infrared cameras, microphones, and signal light gun. Controllers at the remote tower have the same tools as at other ATC towers, but use live video displayed on monitors instead of direct vision to detect and direct in-view air traffic.
“This milestone FAA decision has positioned the Leesburg airport—the second-busiest general aviation airport in Virginia—one step closer to permanent ATC services, while avoiding the ever-increasing expense of constructing and maintaining a conventional, multi-story ATC tower,” Saab said.