Years of planning and hard work by the Airport Authority and city officials from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach has paid off. The South Baldwin skyline will soon include eight-story air traffic control tower.
In December airport officials learned the Federal Aviation Administration had approved a site for a control tower at Jack Edwards National Airport and will fund its operation of $800,000 annually. Now that Federal Aviation Administration approval has been received, a construction grant through the Airport Trust Fund will be applied for and bids are expected to go out in the spring of 2020.
The addition of an air traffic controller will improve life in Baldwin County in a plethora of ways. First, it will provide an extra layer of safety for the region. Once the tower staff is in place the noisy touch and go military landings currently happening at the airport may be better managed and less frequent.
Next, Jack Edwards is one of the busiest airports in the country currently operating without a tower. Its designation as a national airport means it can have access to national and international markets in multiple states and throughout the United States. Without a tower, those flights are unattainable.
Once the tower is in place, national carriers can consider Gulf Shores as a final destination, bringing beach-goers directly to the beach rather than delivering them to Mobile or Pensacola where they then have to travel by car to reach their vacation spot. Could enough flights help ease the traffic burden on 59 as vacationers breeze into town, rather than crawl along the crowded thoroughfare? We are hopeful.
The new tower is a win not just for Baldwin County, but for visitors and industry willing to go the extra mile to serve their customers. We look forward to the day the air traffic control tower opens for business.