$20.5 million control tower dedicated
PITTSTON TWP. - On a day when the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration praised airport officials for their collective vision, officials and board members remained focused on the airport's potential for future growth.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, FAA acting Administrator Michael Huerta and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood dedicated the recently constructed $20.5 million air-traffic control tower at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Erected less than a mile from the airport's runways, the 118-foot-tall tower provides radar service to flights within a 57-mile radius up to an altitude of 10,000 feet, according to a release issued by the FAA.
Traffic controllers began handling flights from the tower on Aug. 29. It replaces a 52-foot-tall tower that was built in 1952.
Funded through the federal stimulus known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the air traffic control tower is equipped with the best communications technology available, including the latest airport surveillance radar, ASR-11, Huerta said.
Also, because of its height, the tower provides controllers with a greater panoramic view of the runways and surrounding airspace, said LaHood.
Lackawanna County Commissioner and chairman of the airport's bi-county board Corey O'Brien emphasized the potential for growth - not just at the airport, but in Northeast Pennsylvania as well.
"We have an improved touch screen communications system, weather display system, tracking system and visibility that we have never had before," O'Brien said.
In his speech, O'Brien also made a pitch to Huerta, asking him to consider expanding the tower's airspace coverage to areas such as Williamsport, which is handled by the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center.
"This move would improve FAA efficiency and create additional jobs at our airport," O'Brien said.
Though no timetable is set, the bi-county board plans to bring in engineers to discuss the costs of demolishing the former tower, airport director Barry Centini said.
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