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Pope Field air traffic control tower
Air traffic controllers direct air and ground operations atop the new air traffic control tower June 11, 2013, at Pope Field, N.C. The new tower is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certified, stands 11-stories tall and boasts more than 9,000 square feet of internal space. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Tech. Sgt. Peter R. Miller)
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Pope Field getting 'green' control tower

Posted 6/13/2013   Updated 6/14/2013 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Peter R. Miller

6/13/2013 - POPE FIELD, N.C. -- Construction crews on are busy putting finishing touches on the new $8 million air traffic control tower overlooking the flightline here.

"The new 135-foot 11-story structure brings a host of capabilities to Fort Bragg that the long-standing 1970s-era tower had grown too outmoded to provide," said Marco Walton, the Pope Field air traffic control manager. The new tower boasts several upgrades over its 110-foot nine-story predecessor including expanded square-footage, heightened visibility, improved environmental controls and a smaller ecological footprint. Many of the tower's improvements stem from its "green" roots as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified structure.

The LEED certification, bestowed by the U.S. Green Building Council, indicates that a structure has achieved a requisite level of sustainability, resource efficiency, energy efficiency and environmental quality. Builders are awarded points for incorporating sustainable technologies and practices in construction projects and certifications are earned by achieving points.

"The new ATC tower raked in many points by recycling more than 90 percent of the high-tech electronics from the old tower, LED lighting, motion-sensing light controls, electric car charging stations, and post-consumer construction materials increased the score. The facility also had to comply with stringent details from its landscaping to the materials used in its furniture and carpet, said Walton, and the enhanced energy efficiency will save taxpayers money over time."

"The original tower, while state-of-the-art when it began operations in 1975, was built to house the hi-tech air traffic control and communications equipment of its day," said Walton. The standard equipment used by the Federal Aviation Administration in the late 1970s was much bulkier and successive iterations of improvements in technology and miniaturization had made the tower a patchwork of modern technologies in a bygone vessel.

"It had reached its capacity for additional modernization," said Walton, a retired active-duty Air Force air traffic controller. The new structure has the capability to grow "as the Air Force modernizes and improves the techniques we use to do our job," said Walton. "This place is wired for sound. It has a lot more LAN drops and a lot more phone drops. That is very fundamental, but as air traffic control goes we have a lot more growth potential as technology improves in the future."

In addition to the nests of reworked outdated wiring, the old tower had other pressing issues. "We had a problem with mold," said Walton. "When it would rain, it would leak into the tower windows and rain would run all the way down inside the offices. [The Directorate of Public Works] would come clean it up, but the new tower obviously improves the working conditions for the employees who work here."

"The Army Corps of Engineers supervised construction of the tower from inception to completion," said Walton. "They issued proposal requests, managed logistics, and held contractors accountable to the tower's blueprints. Although the ground breaking ceremony took place in early 2011, the building's construction faced several delays due to the intense specialization and unique skillsets required of the construction personnel."

The tower consolidates two formerly separate facilities by co-locating a control tower simulator within the tower walls. The 270-degree wrap-around training simulator can replicate a variety of weather conditions like rain, snow and ice during day or nighttime operations. It can also interject any type and number of aircraft needed for the facility to accomplish its training objectives.

Walton said he expects the merger to help him mitigate the effects of federal furloughs on his team, whose staffing is currently 75 percent of capacity.

"We are a 100 percent civilian workforce here, so the furlough will affect all of us," said Walton. "As our manning is heightened, we don't have the luxury of sending two or three people down the street for training. We need to be able to recall people quickly."

"Facility employees have faced denied leave requests and additional shifts due to pending budgetary constraints," said Walton. Yet, despite the FAA's budgetary woes, the Pope Field ATC tower operates safely at full capacity, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year in support of America's worldwide commitments.

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