FAA Dedicated New Tower And Radar Approach Control At Memphis Intern. Airport


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FAA Dedicated New Tower And Radar Approach Control At Memphis Intern. Airport

By Steve Hall

October 22, 2011 - Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt on Thursday dedicated the new $72.6 million air traffic control tower and radar approach control at Memphis International Airport. The new tower enables air traffic controllers to continue to provide the safest, most efficient service to both passenger and cargo flights.

“We must invest in rebuilding and expanding our nation’s aviation infrastructure so we can remain competitive in our global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “The American Jobs Act will put construction workers back to work modernizing our nation’s airports and America’s transportation system.”

“This tower is a symbol of the FAA’s commitment to aviation safety and modernization of the air traffic control system,” said FAA Administrator Babbitt.  “Our future success depends on keeping our airport infrastructure healthy and investing in NextGen so we can make air travel more efficient, dependable and even safer.”

The new 336-foot-tall Memphis air traffic control tower is equipped with state-of-the-art Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, technology.  The 850 square-foot tower cab has enough room to accommodate additional future air traffic control positions.  The 24,000-square-foot base building houses training rooms, administrative offices, and an expanded terminal radar approach control (TRACON), with space for future growth. The new facility has the latest seismic, security, and air traffic simulation capabilities.

Memphis Tower controllers handled 333,647 takeoffs and landings in 2010, making it the 22nd busiest tower in the country.  Memphis TRACON controllers handled 356,734 instrument operations (overflights) in 2010, making it the 23rd busiest TRACON nationwide. The American Jobs Act includes $1 billion to continue research and development to advance NextGen.  The Act also proposes $2 billion for improvements to airport runways, taxiways and terminals.

At 336 feet, the new tower in Memphis is the third tallest in the United States. It is surpassed only by Atlanta at 398 feet and Orlando at 345 feet. The old tower was commissioned in 1977. In the past 34 years, as Memphis International Airport has grown in size and number of operations, the FAA has added additional tower and radar positions.  The facility’s operational growth, addition of new air traffic control technology, and the airport’s additional runways and taxiways made the height and size of the old tower obsolete.

A total of 147 FAA employees work at Memphis Tower, 114 in Air Traffic and 33 in Technical Operations. Tech Ops employees install and maintain air traffic control equipment. The construction contract for $52.2 million was awarded in September 2007 to Flintco, Inc. of Memphis. Equipment and installation costs will be $9.3 million and demolition of the old tower cost $11.1 million, for a total of $72.6 million. The new facility has the latest radar, communications and weather technology including:


The Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS): provides air traffic controllers with bigger radar displays on color monitors that are easier to read and more detailed weather and flight information. ASDE-X: a ground radar safety system that provides a high-resolution computerized display of aircraft and vehicle movement on the airport surface.  Memphis is one of 35 facilities to receive ASDE-X, which penetrates rain, fog and darkness to give tower controllers a clear picture with which to safely move aircraft around the airport. ASDE-X also updates aircraft positions once every second. 

Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS): an automated weather system that provides controllers near-term (0-30 minutes) prediction capability of significant weather events including wind shear, storm cell and lightning information. Collaborative Departure Queue Management (CDQM): a key NextGen technology that shares real-time data about the location of all aircraft and other vehicles on the airport surface among controllers, pilots, airline operations centers, airport operators and the FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center.  CDQM is being tested at Memphis Tower. 

Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS): the system used by controllers to predict national and local traffic surges, gaps, and volume based on current and anticipated airborne aircraft. Controllers evaluate the projected flow of traffic into airports and sectors, to determine and activate the best strategy to ensure that traffic demand does not exceed system capacity.   

Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR): a sophisticated, high-resolution radar that detects all types of wind shear in the airport terminal area. TDWR detects microbursts, gust fronts, major wind shifts and precipitation intensity and displays the information on a controller’s STARS displays. TDWR enables air traffic controllers to provide pilots with specific information on the location and strength of wind shear, with sufficient advance warning to avoid it. 


Low-Level Windshear Alert System (LLWAS): the system measures wind speed and direction at remote sensors located around the airport. The remote sensor data is transmitted to a master station, which generates warnings when windshear or microburst conditions are detected.

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