This week San Francisco International Airport turns over its fabulous new control tower to the Federal Aviation Administration.
But before doing so, the airport gave TravelSkills an exclusive early tour.
The FAA will spend a year outfitting the voluptuous, flared cylinder with its systems, testing them and then training controllers. The new tower is expected to be operational by next summer.
Ready to take a tour? Let’s start at the bottom and move to the top.
In late June, a bright new land side corridor (along the roadway) connecting Terminal 1 with Terminal 2 will open to the public. What’s amazing about the corridor is that it has a glass roof so you can stop and peer up at the new tower. I think they’ll need to install handrails to keep folks from falling over as they crane their necks to view the beautiful new metallic cone. It’s gorgeous, almost hypnotic, and vertigo-inducing to look up at it as the clouds roll by.
Also in June, a new computer controlled display will light up the tower in a variety of colors, which will be seen from miles away after dusk. Like the Empire State Building or San Francisco City Hall, the new “waterfall of lights” will signify special occasions– orange when the Giants win, or red and green for Christmas, etc.
The FAA will have offices in a three-story building at the base of the tower, where the exterior and glass walls have been thickened and hardened to prevent damage from truck bombs on the nearby roadway.
The structure is built on “bay mud” according to project manager Tony Kingsman who said that the tower is supported in bedrock 140 below ground, and is designed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake and still be operational.
This is SFO’s fourth control tower. The current one was built in 1981 atop the current Terminal 2, deemed seismically unstable, so construction began on the new tower three years ago.
It cost about $120 million to build the tower, FAA office building and corridor. The FAA kicked in about 70 million of that– enough for a basic, utilitarian structure, but SFO wanted it to be an iconic, torch-like symbol of the gateway to the Pacific, so it contributed an additional $50 million for aesthetics, as well as additional airport space like the new corridor.
The new tower should open in July 2016 at which time the old tower will be dismantled quickly so as not to obstruct runway views from the new one. There is talk of the airport adding a outdoor viewing platform, open the the public, in the old tower’s footprint atop T2, but for now, that’s just talk.
Okay then. Let’s crawl up inside this spectacular structure! Watch this video and scroll through the images and video below.
First taking an elevator up about 10 floors and then walking up a spiral staircase, you enter a wonderland of planespotting— a full 270 degrees of unobstructed airport views through 24 giant panes of 1-1/2 inch-thick glass. On the western side of the 650-square-foot “cab” there are a few pillars that hold up the roof. I’ve never seen a view like this one.
Here’s a video watching an Air China 747-8 take off from outside the cab.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Delta’s experiments + Southwest adds Oakland-Atlanta nonstop + More power in your pocket at Marriott + Airline CEO dismissed + Delta’s first class summer sale