As most know, the control tower project at JYO has been a work in progress since 2015 or 2016. I came on board in 2018 as a controller when it went live on a more continuous basis and a few months later, became the tower manager. Prior to my employment here, it underwent lots of testing; some passive and some active. In 2018, the testing became more of a validation and verification. Along the way, there have been a few bumps but we were able to get to a point to continue on a longer term.
Last fall, the remote tower that was located in the airport conference room was decommissioned and all operations were moved to the mobile tower adjacent to taxiway Alpha where they continue today. It bears repeating that the controllers are not in the "enforcement" business. We are all retired from the FAA and have worked in various towers and radar facilities. My own experience is 10 years at towers/TRACON (CKB and AGC) and 16 years at Washington Center.
This project has ALWAYS had a keen eye on it from the outside and there are probably a few people who would love to see it fail. It is the first remote tower project in the United States and most of the people involved want to see it succeed especially the vendor, Saab-Sensis.
The purpose of this long-winded post is just to reinforce and educate. There seems to be an upturn in the frequency of some issues that some "eyes" feel are significant. So I'd like to outline the most chronic ones with the hope that they not occur as frequently if not stopping altogether.
The biggest one is the Leesburg Maneuvering Area (LMA) code 1226. The tower itself does not have a radar display but between Potomac Tracon and the security forces monitoring the Capitol airspace, when an aircraft is on the wrong code or has no transponder on, they are quick to call us. Please make sure when using the LMA that you are on code 1226.
Pattern work when the tower is open requires code 1234. When the tower is closed, an SFRA flight plan and discreet code is REQUIRED for pattern work. If you are doing pattern work at tower opening and are on a discreet code from your SFRA flight plan, you should squawk 1234. If in doubt, ask. Before we open up, as part of our opening routine, we are notified of aircraft who may be doing pattern work by Potomac as well as any proposed IFR aircraft who may have obtained their IFR clearance when the tower is closed. Generally, it should be a seamless and transparent transition when we open and close. IF YOU ARE IN DOUBT, JUST ASK.
Lastly, we get frequent calls about SFRA airspace violations. Please ensure that you know your proximity to the "lines" and stay clear. It is very workload intensive when this happens for us because it always results in 3 phone calls to the tower and they are all simultaneous on 2 different commercial phone lines and one shout line to the tracon. Now, due to the pandemic, there is usually only one person in the tower to handle all of these calls plus manage both ground and tower frequencies.
Usually, these violations require us to notify the pilot of a possible pilot deviation and give a phone number to call. Most of the time, all we are doing is relaying a message. It really should not result in any dialogue with us because we don't know what the actual issue is. Again, we have no "enforcement authority."
Why the novel? The recommissioning of the remote tower is in progress and will be reopening soon at a location off of airport property. This means that many eyes are on us again and will continue to be as we move to the next phase of testing and validation. The end goal is for JYO to be commissioned as a federal contract tower similar to FDK and CHO but using remote capabilities.
These issues were discussed at the last airport pilot outreach meeting and many questions were answered.
If you have any more questions, I encourage you to ask them. We are not here to spoil anyone's day!