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‘Long overdue’: Bend Municipal Airport seeking grant funds for air traffic control tower

(Update: Adding video, comments from airport manager, pilot)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The third-busiest airport in Oregon is preparing for an upgrade, in the form of an 80- to100-foot-tall air traffic control tower. 

Tracy Williams, manager of the Bend Municipal Airport, said the tower is needed. 

"Out of the top five busiest airports in the state of Oregon, Bend is the only one without an air traffic control tower, and it's long overdue," she said Thursday.

She said in October of last year, the airport was accepted as a candidate for the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) program, and was given a five-year window to build a tower. (Through the FCT program, the air traffic controllers are privately contracted and not FAA employees).

The $7.5 million project would be funded by the city of Bend, along with state and federal grants.

The airport is issuing a request for a consultant on Sept. 22 and will submit an application for the grant through the Central Oregon Area Commission on Transportation (COACT) by Sept. 29.

Williams said approval should be announced in the spring of 2022, and construction will begin shortly after.

"Two years from October of last year, so within, hopefully a year, a year and a half from now,” Williams said. 

Williams says the airport is growing, with 120,000 annual operations in 2018, 160,000 at present and as many as 180,000 expected by 2030.

"The No. 1 priority with our airport users is to have an air traffic control tower," she said.

Pilot Andrew Semanskee flew into Bend for the first time Thursday, and said there is a lot more pressure on a pilot when landing without a tower.

"Looking for that person, hoping you don't hit them. Being really diligent on the radios, talking, making sure everybody's looking out for one another,” Semanskee said. 

He said with a tower, it adds a sense of structure.

"With the tower, you have kind of a mediator between pilots to give you that separation that you want and keep everybody safe, vs. here, it can be a free-for-all, at times,” Semanskee said. 

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

Comments

15 Comments

  1. I wish that they would clarify this “3rd busiest airport” stat. Obviously, they aren’t the 3rd busiest in Oregon. Portland, Eugene, Medford, Redmond all see more traffic. Flight aware is an easy fact checker. Bend is likely the third busiest that doesn’t have a tower.

    Why not just make the Redmond tower airspace larger and incorporate the Bend airspace? Oh, that’s right because Bend has to feel special. Could save millions of dollars, KRDM already has the building and people.

    Deep down they still have hurt feelings that Redmond has the airport.

      1. Your citing a report from Bend.gov, of course the statistics show they are the 3rd busiest. On this list it doesn’t include the Medford INTERNATIONAL airport, Klamath Falls, Eugene. I don’t believe the statistics.

        1. The Bend airport is significantly more busy than Klamath Falls and Medford. International airport doesnt make it more busy, it just means it has some commercial operations and larger commercial jets come in from time to time, but not necessarily frequently. It is common to fly to those airports and be the lone plane, while in Bend it is common to share the airport traffic pattern with as many as a dozen other planes. It sounds like you’re not an aviation person and don’t have a sense of general aviation. Source: am pilot.

  2. I’m looking at it from a financial stance. Why would you create a tower thats airspace will basically touch the next airspace? The ‘Bend Tower’ wont cover just the airfield, it will likely cover 5 nautical miles around the airport. The airports are less than 10 miles apart. Redmond has a tower, contract with them to cover the movement at the little bend airport. Bend is all about making things harder than they should be. This is going to cost millions. Please dont tell me its free money, we all (well most of us) pay federal taxes.

  3. The stats are definitely off, but not in the way the previous commenters think. Thats because the flight schools at Bend airport don’t fly when the weather is bad. Those stats are annual stats. On any given nice day, when the flight schools at Bend are pumping non stop touch and goes, it’s easily the busiest in the state. It’s extremely dangerous. Ask anybody not associated with the flight schools. When the tower comes, the flight schools will not be able to operate like this anymore. So yea, expect a lot of kick back from a lot of flight students and CFI’s. In Aviation, safety is first. Pay no attention to these detractors, Bend needs a tower.

  4. So since KRDM and KBND are sharing airspace, this tower had better be in link with the one at Redmond. Also, Bend will have to change its code if it ever gets dedicated airline service as the IATA already has a BND code in Pakistan.

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