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July 15, 2021

Inhofe Asks Congress to Prioritize Tulsa International Airport Community Projects

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has asked Congress to prioritize two community projects at the Tulsa International Airport.

The first project would allow for construction of a new air traffic control tower at Tulsa International Airport (TUL) to provide a safe, functional and reliable facility for air traffic control services required to operate the Tulsa airspace system. The second project would allow for construction of a new Federal Inspection Service Facility to provide screening of commercial and general aviation passenger and cargo flights arriving from international destinations. 

“There is a constant need to ensure the Tulsa International Airport can serve the millions of Tulsa citizens and surrounding communities with the most modernized and safe facilities,” Inhofe said. “As a pilot myself and longtime advocate of aviation priorities, I know how updated facilities can boost economic growth and development – supporting the Tulsa region for years to come. I am glad we are able to prioritize the building of a new air traffic control tower and Federal Inspection Service Facility in this thriving city.”

"Having the ability to construct a new air traffic control tower and a new Federal Inspection Service Facility at Tulsa International Airport will help us serve the citizens of the Tulsa metropolitan area and surrounding region with the highest level of care and safety," said Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust Executive Director Alexis Higgins. "We are extremely grateful to Senator Inhofe for his work towards securing these congressionally directed funds and his continued dedication to the Tulsa community."

Tulsa International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower

TUL's existing air traffic control tower was built in 1962, making it one of the oldest towers in the FAA's air traffic organization. Building modifications have been made throughout the years to accommodate changing operational needs; however, the building today does not meet present day building codes or the FAA’s operational standards. The facility’s maintenance needs are growing exponentially, approaching $700,000 per year, while the controllers at the tower handle over 300,000 aircraft operations per year, one of highest amounts of operations out of the 30 oldest towers in the country. This project is critical in order to preserve the safety, security and continuity of the national air transportation system. The Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT), the owner of the TUL Air Traffic Control Tower, is committed to completing the site selection, design and construction of a new air traffic control tower at TUL.

The new facility will provide the dependable infrastructure necessary for the safe operation of air traffic within TUL's approach and local control areas and will allow the TUL facility to expand their services beyond its existing capabilities. The facility will also serve as a redundant control facility for military and air traffic operations in the Oklahoma City area, should those facilities experience a catastrophic disruption in service.

Tulsa International Airport Federal Inspection Service Facility

TUL's existing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) office is located near the airport terminal, adjacent to cargo warehouse facilities. The 1,272 square foot facility requires CBP officers to travel to arriving aircraft in order to conduct inspections on aircraft ramps, typically adjacent to FBOs or corporate hangars. CBP notified the Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust (TAIT) in 2016 that the TUL facilities were inadequate to accommodate their mission and that they would cease operations at TUL unless the airport was able to provide a new facility that meets their needs and current design standards. In 2019, TAIT engaged an architectural and engineering firm to begin preliminary conceptual design of a new facility. In February 2020, they had selected a location adjacent to the terminal building that would provide adequate space to build a new facility that would accommodate airside access for agents and terminal access for passengers to enter upon successful clearance through the Customs inspection. However, the entire project was put on hold in March 2020 as a result of declining activity and revenues because of the COVID-19 pandemic. CBP continues to operate out of their existing facility under an annual agreement with assurances that TAIT will continue to seek funding for construction of a new facility.

A fully functional Federal Inspection Service facility will meet the needs of all users who receive services today and commercial air carriers that would provide connections to Tulsa from international destinations. The new facility must be fully constructed and operational no later than January 2026.

Learn more about these projects and other Oklahoma community projects Inhofe has asked Congress to prioritize here.

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