Tourism/Transportation

FAA shuts down Isla Grande airport air-traffic control tower

The air-traffic control tower at the Luis Ribas Dominicci airport was shut down Thursday.

Citing damages caused following the passing of Tropical Storm Emily, Port Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero announced Thursday the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to close the air-traffic control tower at the Fernando Ribas Dominicci airport in Isla Grande.

The airport’s control tower is managed and operated by the FAA and not by the Port Authority, he explained. A new tower is expected to go up in the next three or four weeks, agency officials said.

“Yesterday afternoon we received the FAA notification informing of its decision and explaining it will not affect air operations at the Isla Grande airport, and that it is being done to ensure the safety of employees,” Escudero said.

The FAA said flights to the small airport in Miramar will be controlled from the Combined Center and Radar Approach center at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. The fate of the 10 to 15 air-traffic controllers that work at Isla Grande remained uncertain Thursday afternoon.

News is my Business learned that as a result of switching air-traffic control to LMM, services to aircraft using Isla Grande’s facilities — including private jets, flight schools and small commercial airlines serving neighboring islands — will not be as fast as they currently are.

A few weeks ago, Escudero said to have met with the FAA to decide where a temporary tower would be placed as it was known beforehand that the current facility needed to be replaced. However, this week’s rains caused the decision to close it earlier, due to safety issues, he said.

For its part, the FAA said that in about three or four weeks they will be sending a temporary control tower to the airport to continue working from there while building the new tower.

A source familiar with the airport’s operations told News is my Business that the FAA runs the Isla Grande control tower under the same contract as the Borinquen Airport in Aguadilla. At present, the tower controlling commercial traffic at that western-area airport, where major airlines including JetBlue, Spirit and Continental operate, is temporary.

While plans for a new one were underway, all of the FAA’s construction projects were put on hold last month, when the agency virtually shut down as a result of a budget impasse in Congress.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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