Facility Spotlight: Fort Smith/Razorback Approach
Friday, August 02, 2013

There are 28 NATCA members at Fort Smith Tower/Razorback Approach (FSM), putting the facility’s NATCA membership at 98 percent.

FSM is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. CDT. The facility is currently a level eight, but is being downgraded to a level seven.

The tower and TRACON were put in the new facility in 1998. FSM NATCA Facility Representative John Bratcher said the facility’s name went from Fort Smith Approach to Razorback Approach because the new facility took over Fayetteville Non-Radar approach.

Bratcher, who also chairs both NATCA’s Organizing and Benefits Committees, said controllers at FSM “spin two radars.”

“We are actually two approach controls in one,” he said. “We cover all of Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith area as well.”

FSM controllers work with those at Memphis Center (ZME), Fort Worth Center (ZFW), Kansas City Center (ZKC) and Springfield Tower (SGF). They also work with controllers at four NATCA Federal Contract Towers (FCTs) – XNA, ASG, ROG and FYV.

FSM controllers work all kinds of aircraft, from powered parachutes and SR22s, to B757s.

“We also have a large military presence, and so we work a lot of military type aircraft,” said Bratcher.

FSM is a unique facility because a military base is attached to the airport, along with five restricted areas and several MOAs. FSM controllers also have to work a Class C (XNA) airport with three other controlled airports, all within 10 miles of each other. 

“They have intersecting/crossing finals along with mountainous terrain,” said Bratcher. “We have one of the few LDA (Landing Distance Available) step down approaches in the country as well.”

The University of Arkansas is located in FSM Northwest Arkansas area’s airspace, adding a large amount of traffic during the football and basketball seasons.  Bratcher says Walmart headquarters is also located in FSM airspace, which increases traffic when all the big stockholders fly in annually to meet. 

“That brings in tens of thousands of people from all over the world to northwest Arkansas,” he said.

In addition, Tyson Foods, Inc. and J.B. Hunt are headquartered in Northwest Arkansas and fly a lot of corporate aircraft all over the world.  

“We also host military JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Command) exercises in our restricted areas and MOAs,” says Bratcher. “ And we train Department of Energy and Special Ops personnel on nuclear movement and related issues at Fort Chaffee and our restricted areas.”

There is a strong NATCA presence at FSM, and the members regularly get together for solidarity events to keep the NATCA family bond strong. Solidarity events include celebrating NATCA's birthday, Labor Day, etc. 

Bratcher said the FSM NATCA local also hosts an annual golf tournament and a charity dinner called Vector for the Cure.  He says that this year it is October 7th and 8th in Northwest Arkansas. 

“We also hold quarterly NATCA solidarity days when everyone wears NATCA shirts to work,” he said.

Bratcher said he has some of the best members in the country, who truly bleed NATCA. He has seen an increase in local activism, as well as a large influx of youth, who are also getting active.

“My membership promotes the family atmosphere and everyone really helps each other out,” he said. “We believe in the collective voice and move towards positive changes in our profession.”