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August 09, 2013 // Facility Spotlight: Sioux Falls/Foss Field Tower

There are 10 NATCA members at Sioux Falls/Foss Field Tower (FSD), located in the “Heart of America.”

FSD is a level 6 facility, open from 5 a.m. to 12 o’clock midnight CDT. The control tower is approximately 85 feet tall and was commissioned in 1964.

FSD controllers work all types of aircraft on a regular basis, including many air carriers, air taxis, general aviation aircraft, and numerous helicopters from the local hospitals. FSD has a local squadron of 24 F16 fighter jets, and controllers also work C130s coming from Minneapolis to do pattern work. They guide these different types of aircraft with assistance from controllers at Minneapolis Center (ZMP) and Sioux City approach control (SUX).

NATCA Facility Representative Robert Decker said FSD is a great place to work as controllers get to guide many types of aircraft.

“Many of the small aircraft that fly at 120 knots are then followed by an F16 doing 550 knots, and this can be a challenge,” he said.

Decker says the geographical location of FSD also makes working at the facility unique, as the weather is far from routine.

“It can be 100 degrees in the summertime with thunderstorms and tornadoes, followed by ice, heavy snow, and strong winds in the winter with temperatures below 25 degrees,” he says. “Both seasons can provide many challenges, including adding to the workload.”

There are several special events throughout the year that affect traffic for FSD, including a large airshow that takes place at FSD airport every third year. FSD also has numerous small airports in its airspace that host fly-ins, including a pancake fly-in held at a church about 15 miles southeast of the airport. Decker says the highway is closed for aircraft to land on, and then they park in the church parking lot. Also, Luverne (LYV) Airport, east of FSD in Minnesota, conducts all-day parachuting every weekend and on major holidays, weather permitting.

“This can have a major impact of traffic since arriving aircraft from MSP and ORD fly over this airport,” says Decker.

Decker says the NATCA local atmosphere at FSD is a good one. NATCA and FSD management have a strong working relationship, one in which management and controllers have common respect for one another. Decker says collaboration is a great tool they often use.

Although FSD is a small NATCA local, they still get together and host quarterly meetings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

“The best part of being a Facility Rep at FSD is that this is a smaller facility, so I have direct communication with the members which allows me to voice their concerns with management in a non-formal way,” says Decker. “This is very efficient and effective.”