An Indiana air base that houses the nation's largest fleet of KC135 four-engine tankers will get a high-tech air traffic control tower next year that supporters say will better serve its growing military, civilian and commercial aviation needs.
Lt. Col. Gary Lockard, the base's public affairs chief, says the $7.4 million tower at Grissom Air Reserve Base north of Kokomo will replace a tower built in 1965.
The nine-story tower will increase visibility to 10,000 feet and will provide space for a control-tower simulator to enhance training, said Col. William Tim Cahoon, commander of the 434th Air Refueling Wing stationed at the base. Cahoon told the Kokomo Tribune that the new facility also will have increased security and office space and will have better environmental controls than the tower it replaces.
Cahoon said the old tower is "long in the tooth" and that its replacement will better reflect the technology that goes into air traffic facilities.
"It's more than just having a radio and looking out of a window like you see in a movie," he said. "This really is a big deal."
The new tower, scheduled to open in the summer of 2012, will accent a recently completed radar-approach control center.
Base officials and customers say the upgrades are welcome as business expands at the base, which was realigned as an Air Reserve base in the early 1990s.
Dan Montgomery, owner of Montgomery Aviation, welcomes the new addition.
"That's an old tower that has been there for a long time. The new tower will help with traffic flow and really improve traffic," he said.
Cahoon said he expects the tower's benefits will extend beyond aviation.
"You don't usually get a lot of $7.4 million projects in north central Indiana," he said. "Economically, this will benefit the base and the community. There are economic benefits from this and we will get good use from it."