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Destin, Florida, airport control tower to open Nov. 1Destin, Florida, airport control tower to open Nov. 1

A new air traffic control tower will open at Florida’s Destin Executive Airport on Nov. 1, and AOPA is urging pilots to familiarize themselves with procedural changes that will occur in the area’s Special Air Traffic Rules (SATR) airspace when the tower begins operations.

AOPA supported the establishment of Class D airspace for the control tower in 2016, as did many local pilots, to increase safety, order, and expediency of service in the area’s congested SATR airspace.

Destin Executive Airport is situated south of Eglin Air Force Base, and east of Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther in Florida’s panhandle. The Part 93 special air traffic rule in effect there requires pilots to obtain an air traffic control clearance or advisory before operating in the Eglin/Valparaiso terminal area.

The FAA is expected to issue a notice to airmen to announce that the control tower—which will be operated by a private contractor under the FAA’s Contract Tower Program—has become operational. The agency also will publish a bulletin in the Chart Supplement to notify pilots of the change, until the New Orleans Sectional chart can be updated, said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic.

An update of the online pilot-education course about the airspace on the FAA Safety Team's website is expected to be released soon, Duke said.

In public comments on the proposed airspace changes, AOPA had strongly urged that the course be updated to help pilots manage the “intricacies” of the airspace, addressing such questions as the status of Destin’s Class D airspace and what air traffic control facility pilots using the airport should contact when the tower is closed.

The introduction to the FAA’s online course on Destin Executive Airport also strongly urges pilots to familiarize themselves with the demands of operating in the Eglin/Valparaiso terminal area. “While using this airspace is quite straightforward, the unknowledgeable pilot can easily be overtaken by events and—at the least—be embarrassed, or—at worst—become involved in a serious safety event,” it says.

On Oct. 19, a public presentation offered this overview of the new control tower.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Airport Advocacy, Special Use Airspace, ATC

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