MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — For nearly 30 years, Chad Gehrke has had a front row seat to Murfreesboro’s growth.
“There’s all kinds of new, interesting tenants, businesses, (and) job opportunities that we didn’t have in 1994 that are here now today,” he said.
All those things Gehrke described are now evident when he looks out at the Murfreesboro Municipal Airport.
“Just like what we all see on our roads, we see in our airspace around Murfreesboro and around Nashville,” he said.
So Gehrke, who serves as airport director, is trying to prepare for the future.
On Thursday Sept. 21, he approached the Murfreesboro City Council and asked for approval to submit an application with the Federal Aviation Administration for a control tower.
“The next level of service that we can assist with managing all that is to look at the tower,” he said.
The FAA has a federal contract tower program that, if approved, could bring in an air traffic control tower in the next three to five years.
Before a control tower is approved and constructed, several preliminary studies must be completed.
The cost of the tower, including required studies and reporters through construction, is estimated to be $7-9 million over several years.
The FAA would assist with paying 90% of the costs as well as salaries for up to six air traffic controllers.
Even though Middle Tennessee State University is moving their aerospace campus from the airport out to Shelbyville, Gehrke said studies show the need for a control tower is still there.
“What this provides us for is to bring in different users,” he said. “Some different aircrafts, some business aircrafts that we see a little bit of…just a little bit more.”
With council approving the opportunity for the airport’s application, Gehrke said these are the first steps in the airport tackling current and future growth.
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“If things continue to go as is, we’ll benefit from having that tower,” he said. “If not, we might look to something else. We might change that plan; we’re just going into that process right now.”
Gehrke said they will find out if they are approved for the program in the next 120 days.
If approved and studies go well, Gehrke said a possible tower could be built and operating out of the airport in the next several years.