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Air traffic controllers keep things in sync

    Tim Stewart is the air traffic control manager at the Walla Walla Regional Airport. But last summer he had more ground vehicles and airplanes to keep track of.
    “For four months, during the runway construction, we had to keep airplanes and vehicles on the move without interfering with each other,” Stewart said, “and with the main runway closed, it was a real balancing act.”
Stewart said that most days during the May-to-September period, there were as many as 40 vehicles on the airfield, not counting aircraft.
    “On top of that, for whatever reason, our air traffic was up nearly 25-percent over the comparable period of 2002,” Stewart added.
    He estimated the control tower recorded as many as 40,000 extra transmissions during the construction period...talking to pilots and construction equipment operators.
    In addition to air crews, Stewart and his team were in frequent contact with contractors to make certain everybody was doing what needed to be done to maintain airport traffic and safety.
    “We were ‘staffed up’ all the time,” Stewart emphasized. “We had to be ready to handle a variety of sometimes unusual situations.”
    The good news is that the major rebuild of the runway was accomplished without incident or accident. Port of Walla Walla officials are quick to credit the air traffic controllers for successfully handling the increased challenges brought on by the construction project.
    Stewart and his staff work for Serco Management Services, Inc., the firm contracted by the Federal Aviation Administration to handle air traffic control at the Walla Walla Regional Airport.

Port District ad campaign designed to boost traffic

    Faced with the threat of losing Horizon air service at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, the Port has embarked on an aggressive program aimed at increasing local passenger boardings.
     Among other things, the Port launched an advertising campaign to publicize lower fares to Seattle and worked with Horizon’s partner airlines to offer reasonably priced connecting fares to major East Coast and West Coast destinations.
     Port Commissioner Paul Schneidmiller said the promotional program is paying off.
     Passenger counts climbed significantly during the last quarter of 2003 and Horizon has again scheduled a fourth flight, originating in Pendleton to Walla Walla, then on to Seattle.
     Schneidmiller said the increase in passenger traffic sends a message to Horizon that air service is needed and used in Walla Walla.


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