Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Air Traffic Control Tower Improves Warfighting Effectiveness

By Jay Cope, Naval Air Station Whiting Field Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field's air traffic controllers, the team that helps direct the traffic for one of the Navy's busiest airfield, got to move into their new air traffic contol tower May 25.

The $4.6-million air traffic control tower overlooks the south field of the base's two airfields with a view that is 20 feet higher than the old tower. With additional working space and an unobstructed view utilizing an extra two feet of window all the way around, the tower provides a more comfortable and efficient office to monitor more than 160,000 annual flight operations at south field. The improvements are a welcome addition to the controllers.

"I've been watching it be built for two years hoping I would get in it before I transferred," said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class John Vernon who was also the tower supervisor during the tower's first operational shift. "Especially with it being right next to the old tower, people would come over here periodically to see how things were coming along. It is definitely a lot nicer."

Operations commenced promptly at 9 a.m. without a glitch, although a few items were still being installed. Whiting Field's operations department pushed hard for the Memorial Day weekend installation, however, to reduce any impact on the flight schedule.

"We did everything we could to facilitate their schedule," said Harlen Wood, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) project manager for the project. "Fortunately, we were able to keep the timeline."

Wood and his four-man team completed the installation by working 12-hour days during the holiday weekend. It was an effort that pleased the base's air operations officer immensely.

"I couldn't be happier," said Lt. Michael McDonough. "Everyone was anxious, but things are going smoothly. We are in here and flying on time."

The new control stations have better line of sight to airfield operations, the tower contains improved communication equipment and has an improved design for modernizing equipment in the future and for maintenance. Additionally, the larger space enables training to be conducted at each workstation simultaneously, which was not possible in the old tower.

NAS Whiting Field will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new tower in June.