VANCE AIR FORCE BASE —
The men and women who work in the control tower at Vance Air Force Base spend their days looking down on the bustle of activity at one of the busiest air fields in the Air Force.
That is their present. But if they look to the east, and up, they will see their future.
Getting a late start
Looming over the present Vance tower, which was completed in 1972, is the new tower scheduled to be opened later this year.
Construction of the tower was delayed because of a design change involving the size of the elevator and stairwells. The areas must be large enough to accommodate emergency personnel and a gurney. That delayed groundbreaking from October 2011 to last summer.
“That was probably the biggest delay,” said Braven Dyer, project engineer with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “They had to go back and redesign to accommodate those two items. Our original completion (date) was May of 2012.”
Most of the tower is made of pre-cast concrete, said Dyer. The design delays caused the Vance tower to lose its “place in line,” with the firm in Tulsa that manufactures the pre-cast pieces. A parking garage project in Stillwater moved ahead of it.
The new projected completion date, Dyer said, “is the million-dollar question.”
The contractors doing the construction say the new tower will be finished in late July. When the tower is complete, said Donita Hazlett, base civil engineer, the Air Force will have 60 days to move all equipment and furnishings out of the old tower before it is demolished.
“The big thing is the communications and the controlling equipment,” Hazlett said.
The tower project originally was allotted $10.7 million through an insert by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act passed by Congress in 2009. But the final cost of the tower is expected to be $9.5 million, Dyer said.
The cab floor of Vance’s present tower is 63 feet high, which will reach only to the seventh floor of the new tower, the cab floor of which will be 96 feet above ground level.
The new tower not only will be taller but larger — 6,665 square feet to the current tower’s 2,294. The present tower cab is 56 percent smaller than the Air Force standard, too small to accommodate updated equipment and multiple controllers and trainees. The old tower also has no elevator.
In addition, the new tower will meet all safety and fire codes.
“There will be a lot better visibility,” said Hazlett. “That was one of the goals of the project, that the tower controllers and the SOF (supervisor of flight) have a lot better visibility.”
That will be facilitated in part by the shape of the cab, which was constructed on the ground, then lifted into place by a crane.
“The lines along the east-west side are longer, so it’s not symmetrical,” she said. “It’s got two longer sides, which should give a lot better, clearer visibility to the folks up in the tower.”