Contractor: "Ahead of Schedule And On Budget"
It's a narrow white tower brushing the sky that you can't help
but raise your head towards as you enter AirVenture.
It's Wittman Regional Airport's (OSH) new air traffic control
(ATC) tower and when complete, it will replace the blue-paneled
brick tower located by the runways built in 1962 to bring order to
the aviation traffic in what has come to be known as the world's
busiest airport during the week of AirVenture.
And although no construction is being done this week when
thousands of people are on the grounds, normally the site is
teaming with 30-40 construction workers of all types - ironworkers,
masons, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters - working a "full
court press," 7:00-3:30 each weekday, according to Miron Project
Superintendent Eric Welhouse.
Standing atop is the observation deck in the incomplete
structure, you get what can only be described as the best - and
coolest -- view in the house.
Waxing philosophically, Welhouse said -- while viewing the
afternoon's airshow, with airplanes appearing so close to the
tower's summit that you could read their tail numbers -- "We're
building history for EAA and Wittman Airport; we're writing another
piece of the story."
One thing, he noted, is that they have to be wary of weather.
"You're looking at the biggest lightning ground rod around." He
stays on top of it though, with a radar weather screen showing
brightly on the computer in his construction trailer.
As Johnny Carson's television audience would chime, "So how big
is it?" Okay, here are the facts, according to Welhouse and the
- The base foundation which supports the structure was built
using 260 yards of concrete.
- The base building is 8,827-square feet.
- There are 16 flight of steps to the top of the current
structure (116 feet from ground to the floor of the cab), with more
than 135 steps (counts differ, maybe because the step counter loses
track) to climb and descend.
- The control center cab itself (141 feet to top of roof antenna)
is not yet built.
- The octagonal control center will sit atop the square tower now
in evidence; its three levels will be built with structural steel
components assembled on the ground and hoisted in the air as one
modular unit, weighing some 25 tons. (That's okay, the crane can
hoist 110 tons).
- When complete, the tower will be twice the height of the old
tower: 60 feet vs. 140 feet.
- Total cost is projected at $7 million and being funded by a
federal earmark from the FAA budget.
- The tower cab is 525-square feet.
- The tower features four controller positions, plus
- Personnel in the tower will control traffic in an approximate
five-mile radius of the airport.
- FAA air traffic controllers and technical operations personnel
were key members of the design team.
The approximately one-acre complex also includes a one-story
5,000-square foot base building (you can see the demarcating
concrete blocks) that will include offices, break rooms, and
restrooms (Yes, there will also be restrooms in the control tower
itself), as well as an area for mechanical equipment, gas, and
Along the walls of the 16 flights of steps you are surrounded by
structural pre-cast concrete pre-cast panels, each 12-feet high and
21-feet wide and weighing 42,000 pounds. (Can you say
Along the back side of the square tower you can see where the
elevator will be housed, along with the mechanicals, wiring, and
other FAA and technology wiring and cables that will be enclosed
With groundbreaking in April 2007, the project is scheduled to
be completed in spring 2008 and be fully operational in spring
FAA spokesman for the Mid-Atlantic Region Tony Molinaro,
however, is hoping that the construction will be completed in
February 2008. With that timeline, the tower could be operational
by July 2008, in time for AirVenture 2008.
So why a new tower? With the current tower more than 40 years
old, said Molinaro, it was time to replace it with one that offered
better visibility for the controllers from a higher view, as well
as the newest technology. It will also be a benefit in bad
The new tower stands only about 500-feet further back from the
current tower and will have terrific line of sight to Wittman's
"They will be able to see every corner of the airport," he
As a contract tower, during non-AirVenture days, there will be
six tower and two technical operations positions. The tower is open
from 6:00 am - 10 pm. The controller contractor is Midwest ATC.
Once the new tower is in use, there are no concrete plans as to
the fate of the current tower. "It could sit for a while," Molinaro
For aviation historians, the current tower was commissioned in
1963 at a cost of $150,407. An average of 12 controllers stay on
top of 25,000 take offs and landings during the week of
The current tower stands 60-feet (57-feet at controller eye
height), is five stories high, and has an observation deck. In 1968
it was moved from its original venue 68-feet closer to the new
north/south runway. Its cab area is 24-feet by 24-feet.
Miron Construction is no stranger to unusual projects. With
corporate offices in Neenah, WI, the company lays claim to the
Nicolet Bank Center and Lambeau Field Redevelopment, both in Green
Bay, WI, and the First Wausau Tower in Wausau. Miron provides
comprehensive construction services designed to meet the unique and
diversified needs of its clients.