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Why doesn't Ketchikan International Airport (PAKT) in Alaska have a control tower? The special flight rules applicable to the area (14 CFR 93 Subpart M) seem to make it clear that traffic management is an issue, focusing mainly on being in contact with the Ketchikan flight service station when it is in operation.

The now uncommon situation of an On-Airport Flight Service Station as noted in AIM 4-1-3 would seem to be in force here, but in Ketchikan, it appears that under the SFAR, seen in Ketchican FSS Information, participation is mandatory.

With mandatory participation, what separates Ketchikan from an airport which would normally be served with a control tower? Does it not quite qualify based on traffic?

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A tower can only control what it can see, visually or with radar. The traffic in that area is at low altitude and landing or taking off many places that are not the central airport, much is VFR and not inside the space of a class D tower.

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Because they have an AFIS (aerodrome flight information service), which is similar to a tower, but only provides information, not ATC. This is very common (at least outside the US) at airports which are too small to need ATC, but still too busy to just be uncontrolled. Radio communication is still mandatory, but flights do not receive a clearance and no separation is provided. The AFIS operators are physically located in a tower, by the way, just like ATC would be.

The Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) and the Flight Service Station (FSS) are essentially a Flight Information Service provided at an aerodrome. It is a higher level of service than A/G radio; however it remains fundamentally a source of information rather than control. Generally, they will pass more comprehensive information on traffic than an A/G station would. In the UK, AFIS do issue mandatory instructions to aircraft and vehicles on the ground, up until aircraft pass a runway holding point. In Canada, FSS will accept flight plans and can relay IFR clearances to aircraft on the ground or in flight. The normal callsign for a FFS is "radio", for example "Resolute Radio" whilst for an AFIS it is “Information”, for example “Duxford Information”. In both environments, it remains a pilot responsibility to be satisfied that every action is safe and to announce their position and intentions while operating at the aerodrome.

From SKYbrary

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe worth noting that this type of service is extremely common outside the US, but quite rare within the US (particularly the lower 48). $\endgroup$ – pericynthion Sep 2 '20 at 18:34

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