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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 7 August 2, 2008     

Dignitaries mark towering change at Oshkosh
By James Wynbrandt

The new tower at sunset. Photo by Cindy Luft

“If you’re looking for the best seat in the house, this is it.” So said FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell at the dedication of Wittman Regional Airport’s new control tower at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 on Friday morning.

At more than twice the height of the old facility, the new tower carves a commanding profile against the AirVenture skyline. EAA President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny, also on hand for the ceremony, recalled working with the FAA and local airport officials on selecting the tower site.

“This is the right location, the right facility, and it does more than just enhance safety and operational effectiveness for the world’s greatest aviation event,” Poberezny said. “It’s an icon.”

Moments later, with assembled dignitaries including Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris and Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics Director David Greene lending assistance, an oversized pair of scissors snipped a red ribbon, and the tower, which has been in operation since July 1, was officially open for business.

At 141 feet, the $5.6 million tower, constructed by Neenah-based Miron Construction Company, is more than twice the height of the old 60-foot-tall facility. But most importantly, as Sturgell pointed out, “it’s 121 feet to the controller’s eye level.”

“This just improves things so much,” said a beaming Wanda Adelman, FAA district manager for air traffic operations in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes District, overseeing tower operations at AirVenture for the seventh year.

“One of the biggest improvements, we can see the approach end of Runway 9. Planes used to drop below the tree line from the old tower,” Adelman said. “And at the approach end of Runway 36, it used to be hard to tell who was aligned with which runway.”

Aircraft on this latter approach typically use the runway and taxiway for landing simultaneously.

The spacious 525-square-foot cab, more than twice the area of the old tower’s 225-square-footer, will also improve operations.

“Controllers can spread out and keep the noise levels down,” Adelman said. “That improves safety—they can speak in a calm voice without having to talk over other controllers around them, and that helps everybody stay calm.”

In a post-ceremony visit to the tower cab the difference between the old and the new was clear. Controllers have lots of room between them, and the view of the airport is dramatically more expansive. The sleek, modern interior contrasted well with the cramped, jury-rigged appearance of the old cab’s interior. A new voice switching system provides better communication with arriving aircraft, and a STARs display slaved to Milwaukee’s radar system gives a better electronic view of the surrounding skies, which will be especially helpful in IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions.

Sixty-four controllers under the direction of 14 supervisors hailing from 50 different facilities are working in the tower during AirVenture 2008. The color of their distinctive fluorescent pink polo shirts was chosen to enhance visibility when controllers are directing ground traffic from mobile command posts, according to Adelman.

Sturgell, who had already made several visits to the tower since it went in to service, looked over the operations approvingly.

“This is a busy place this time of year,” he said in characteristic understatement. “We’re running operations equal to or greater than Chicago O’Hare [airport]. And the reason we can do that and do it safely is largely because of the people in the pink shirts.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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