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Quad Cities International Airport sees record tower movements in May

June 28, 2023

Quad Cities International Airport reported a record-breaking number of tower movements in the month of May, going back to at least 2017. More than 4,200 tower movements were recorded, exceeding the most recent high of 3,655 in May 2019. A tower movement is generally defined is any time a plane takes off or lands.

The number of tower movements, regardless of the size of the aircraft, impacts many areas of an airport, the most essential being federal funding. Essentially, the busier the airport, the better the opportunity to receive grant funding from the FAA which helps buy equipment, support airport maintenance and improvement projects, and more.

QC Airport is designated as Class C (Charlie) airspace. Classification is generally based on four factors: traffic volume, type of operations, required level of safety, and national/public interest. Airspace classifications are designed to enhance aviation safety and decrease risk of midair collisions by separating aviation traffic. O’Hare International Airport, for comparison, is designated as Class B. There are six classifications in the U.S. for controlled airspace.

Airspace classification plays a role in attracting new or expanded commercial air service. It not only communicates anticipated traffic at a given airport but also what size aircraft is common or manageable, which helps with future planning. Additionally, airspace classification directly impacts air traffic controllers’ earning potential. The higher the classification, the higher the skill level required which yields higher compensation.

“Despite the challenges regional airports are facing growing commercial travel, the general aviation community remains a beacon of light,” said Ashleigh Davis, public relations and marketing manager, Quad Cities International Airport. “Credit for this milestone really belongs to the flights schools and instructors based at MLI, and our thriving general aviation community. Class C is ideal for flight schools and student pilots because it provides the opportunity to learn to listen to the tower as well as communicate with it, without the heavy congestion of busier airports.”

QC Airport continues to rebound from the COVID pandemic that severely impacted air travel. Planes out of the Quad Cities are full which is what airlines want to see when making decisions about where to add flights, given their constrained resources. The stabilization of commercial air travel also contributes to tower movements.

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