Flag, Christmas tree top off new control tower at Memphis airport

Dec 15, 2009

The Federal Aviation Administration topped off Memphis International Airport's new air traffic control tower Monday morning.

Search flight data. The last structural piece of a 336-foot-tall tower -- a platform decorated with a Christmas tree, American flag, contractor Flintco Inc.'s logo and an Iron Workers Local union banner -- was lifted into place shortly after 11 a.m.

A radar and antennas will be installed atop the tower in mid- January, bringing it to finished height. It will be one of the tallest in the country; in the South, only the airports in Atlanta (398 feet) and Orlando (345 feet) have taller towers.

The tower and an adjoining radar control building are scheduled to be commissioned in early 2011.

Featuring seismic safeguards and the latest security and air traffic simulation capabilities, the new tower is 150 feet south and 100 feet west of a 185-foot tower that has been in service since 1977. It will provide air traffic controllers better views of the airport's farthest reaches.

The existing tower will be torn down to complete the project, bringing total cost to about $72 million, the FAA says.

Gusting winds delayed the topping off just over an hour from the scheduled time. Flintco, the general contractor, waited for wind speed to drop before a crane operated by Barnhart Crane & Rigging hoisted the tower's "penthouse," steadied by two guide ropes.

Flintco built the two-level, 850-square-foot tower cab on the ground to make sure the components fit together properly before they were disassembled and lifted into place section by section.

The 24,000-square-foot building attached to the base of the tower will house training rooms, administrative offices and an expanded terminal radar approach control with space for future growth.

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