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EAA Gets New Air Traffic Control Tower

July 15, 2008

By Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jul. 15–OSHKOSH — EAA AirVenture visitors who use the air traffic control tower to get their bearings on the sprawling grounds will soon have another landmark to use.

Federal Aviation Administration officials this morning unveiled the new tower at Wittman Regional Airport. At 141 feet, the new tower is more than twice as high as the old tower, which has been used since the early 1960s.

The new tower, which cost about $6.4 million, will provide better sight lines for air traffic controllers who handle takeoffs and landings year-round as well as for the popular week-long aviation convention and fly-in, said Wanda Adelman, FAA district manager for air traffic operations in Wisconsin and the Lake District.

“The old tower really needed to be replaced,” Adelman said during a tour of the new tower. “It was built a little bit bigger because of AirVenture. With that amount of traffic we really needed a tower this size.”

Though AirVenture lasts only a week, it draws thousands of planes and visitors as well air traffic controllers from other facilities who vie for the coveted positions of being AirVenture air traffic controllers each year. This year’s AirVenture runs July 28 through Aug. 3.

Tiny Wittman airport is the busiest airport in the world on a few of the days of AirVenture, according to FAA statistics. Last year on July 22, the day before the convention officially started, controllers at Wittman handled 2,941 departures and landings, while O’Hare in Chicago had 2,642 and Atlanta’s airport handled 2,887. On the Wednesday of last year’s AirVenture, Oshkosh was again the busiest airport in the world.

Adelman pointed out that Wittman Field was open only 10 hours on those days while O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfeld compiled their numbers of departures and landings in 24-hour periods.

The new tower is 116 feet from ground level to the floor of the 525-square-foot tower cab, where controllers work. It’s 141 feet from the ground to the top of the roof antenna. The old tower was a bit tighter — the cab was 24 feet by 24 feet and 57 feet tall at controller eye height.

Marty Sweeney, an air traffic controller full time in Oshkosh for 12 years, likes the new tower. He and the other permanent Oshkosh controllers moved in to the new tower July 1.

“It’s incredible, very helpful with plotting aircraft,” said Sweeney as he guided a Cessna 172 in for a landing around 11:30 a.m.

The old tower will be demolished in late September or early October.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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