New Air Traffic Control Tower Opens

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AVOCA -- It had been under construction for almost three years and today we got our first look at the new control tower at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Luzerne County.

The tower stands twice as tall as the one it replaces. The new control tower is over 100 feet tall and cost about $20 million of our taxpayer dollars.

Even through the fog and mist, air traffic controllers in the new tower at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Luzerne County can see for miles.

"We did what we could in the old tower but we didn`t have the line of site at the airport that we needed especially with the construction in the new terminal. The panoramic view is incredible plus we have the latest equipment communications equipment, radar site," said Phil Gallagher, an air traffic controller.

The 118 foot tall new tower is twice as high as the old one across the runway.  This gives the air traffic control workers a much better view of the entire airport.

"Not only 118 feet worth of big things, but it is the biggest thing now that we're able to accommodate air space, and that brings jobs and creates jobs here for air traffic controllers," said Corey O'Brien, chairman of the airport county board and Lackawanna County commissioner.

Federal, state, and local officials helped welcome the new addition to the airport.  The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said the new tower will add to the recent safety record of the airline industry.

"We`ve gone 3.5 years without a single commercial airline fatality but we`re never going to sit on our morals. Everything we do is based on risk in the system and to do everything we can to mitigate it and ensure we have the safest and most efficient system in the world," said Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

According to airport officials, the number of passengers flying to and from the airport dropped compared to one year ago. Despite the decline, the US Secretary of Transportation calls the 20 million tax dollar investment the right thing to do.

"Every industry has had a decline including the aviation industry. As our economy improves I have no doubt that planements will improve and increase, and this airport as well is in a position for that," said Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary.

The new tower at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is part of a series of upgrades at airports all over the country.

There are plans to demolish the old control tower sometime down the road.