LGA Controllers Make the Move from Old to New
Friday, October 15, 2010

 

Above: LGA towers, new (left) and old (right), stand side by side. 

 

After over 40 years of protecting the skies over New York, the old LGA tower closed last Saturday, and controllers opened the doors, Sunday, Oct. 10, to the new $100 million facility – one that has been 15 years in the making.

“We’re finally glad to see it done. It’s the newest air traffic control facility in the country,” LGA FacRep Bill McLoughlin says proudly of the historical significance. “It’s a new chapter in aviation in New York City.”

What McLoughlin might be proudest of, though, is the work that NATCA members put into the project, involving themselves in the process every step of the way. Lars Olander, NATCA’s voice for the project, put in the last five years overseeing the design. “Engineers, tech ops – some phenomenal people were involved,” Olander shares of his experience. “To see what goes into a project this scale…I found the whole process fascinating.”

The new and more complex tower design allows air traffic controller better visibility, as well as an advance ground radar system that provides better information regarding aircraft on the runways and taxiways. Though controllers had been up to the new tower several times before the switch, many still described it as a much different experience after embarking on their very first shifts in the altered atmosphere.

“Even though the new tower is probably three times bigger,” shares LGA controller Joe Turuta Jr., “some of the working areas are smaller so we are still trying to get acclimated to the new tower.” One definite plus: a fantastic view, explains Turuta. "Once we get accustomed to the new equipment and height adjustment/surroundings, it will be very beneficial to the operation.”

At 233 feet, the new tower provides a 360-degree view for air traffic controllers watching runways and taxiways, compared with the 151-foot former tower. This fantastic view didn’t come easily however. After the construction was completed, visibility problems rose to the surface and, with NATCA’s involvement, resolved through successful and cost-effective solutions. In large part McLoughlin contributes the success to Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,and Congressman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., who secured the funding for the project when the FAA could not.

With the new and exciting opportunities in LGA’s future also come the lasting memories for those with years spent at LGA. Turuta, who started his career at the old LGA tower, shared the mindset of many this week when he expressed his bittersweet emotions regarding the shutdown and upcoming removal of the structure:

“The old tower is an icon to both New York and the aviation community, and it will be missed.”

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The link below contains audio of the final commercial transmission made by the old tower, worked by local controller Joseph Licini to a USAir flight at approximately 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9.

Unedited audio (from LiveATC.net)

LICINI: “After 46 years you are the last air operation into LGA into the old tower. Continue.”

USAir: “We’re the last? That’s an honor.”

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To view additional pictures of LGA Tower, old and new, click here.
(Pictures courtesy of Joe Turuta, Jr., LGA)