When a Tower’s Next Door Neighbor is the San Andreas Fault

On 28/12/2015, in Towers of the world, by steve

I love San Francisco. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, it has a sphere that is unique and unmistakable. People say San Francisco is special also because it is surrounded by the US, referring to the fact that when you are in the city by the Bay, you are embraced by the sights, sounds, aromas and people of something that is a mixture of old and new but different from those of the US, the essence of why so many people, yours truly included, have left their hearts there and why we tend to come back time and again for a refill.

In San Francisco small earthquakes and big traffic jams are part of everyday life. Larger earthquakes also come and go and the fact that the “big one” might demolish the city one of these days does not seem to overly bother those who call ‘Frisco their home. The city has a building code that tries to make sure that newly erected structures withstand even a major quake but so far no real test of this has taken place…

San Francisco International Airport is every bit as special as the metropolis it serves. 13 miles south of the city center, it is the second busiest airport in California after Los Angeles, its elevation is 3.96 meters and the San Andreas Fault is just four miles away…

SFO

From a passenger perspective, it is an airport that is relatively easy to navigate. Take the Airtrain and it will pass by all the terminals, including the international terminal that is split in two for some reason. If you look closely, you will see that these buildings were designed with an eye to the slumbering danger just a few miles away.

SFO is an airport that poses special challenges for air traffic controllers also. Two sets of parallel runways, arranged perpendicularly, say a lot about the variability of the wind and its strength.

Aerial_view_of_San_Francisco_International_Airport_2010

Aerial_view_of_San_Francisco_International_Airport_2010

The parallel runways are too close together to be usable independently and the two sets cross each other in a way that makes simultaneous use even more fun!

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Aerodrome control towers of the world – McCarran International, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

On 12/07/2010, in Towers of the world, by steve

American aviator George Crockett, a descendant of frontiersman Davy Crockett, established Alamo Airport in 1942 on the site currently occupied by McCarran International. In 1948, Clark County purchased the airfield from Crockett to establish the Clark County Public Airport, and all commercial operations moved to the site of this airport. On December 20, 1948 the airport was renamed McCarran Field for U.S. Senator Pat McCarran, a long-time Nevada politician who authored the Civil Aeronautics Act and played a major role in developing aviation nationwide.

The LAS control tower

The control tower at McCarran International presides over an airport that has a number of unique features apart from being the gateway into gamblers’ paradise. One of these is that more than 85 % of traffic at the airport is origin and destination (O&D), more than at practically any other airport in the USA. Another quirk is that only 12 % of the passengers passing through McCarran live in the Las Vegas area, the lowest figure for any airport in the United States.

Controllers in the tower need to get used to foreign accents too, as more and more direct flights from Europe and Asia operated by non-US airlines are becoming part of the regular schedule.

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Aerodrome control towers of the world – Honolulu International, Honolulu, Hawai’i

On 09/04/2010, in Towers of the world, by steve

Hawai’i is the most remote location on Earth. No other place on earth is so far away from its neighbor landmass as the Hawaiian Islands are. Honolulu, which means Quiet Harbor, is on the Island of O’ahu and next to the famous holiday resort of Waikiki.

The airport is right next to the city and even Waikiki is but a short drive away. No matter where you are coming from, you are likely to be landing after a flight of at least 5 hours but there are direct flights from Newark and Atlanta and then the flight time is almost double that.

O’ahu is characterized by the mountain range extending along the spine of the island and the almost permanent cloud formations on the windward side of the mountains. What you see is the trade winds hitting the hills and dropping their moisture. The windward side of O’ahu is the fresh-water machine of the whole island! The lee-side is sunny and mostly dry with a gentle breeze caressing your skin making even the hottest day pleasant.

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Aerodrome control towers of the world – Vancouver Harbour, Vancouver, BC, Canada

On 10/12/2009, in Towers of the world, by steve

towerFor some reason, the height of air traffic control towers has become almost a matter of competition between airports and even countries. With some very nice new airports popping up in exotic places, new and ever taller towers seem to be a requirement not to be ignored.

Of course the height of the tower is (or should be…) determined primarily by the need for controllers to see all the runways and associated taxiways properly. Build the thing too high and in some places with lots of fog and low clouds controllers will have to manage in IMC even if the rest of the field does not appear to be socked in… Of course, modern electronic wizardry enables controllers to see even when conditions are otherwise poor. This in turn begs the question: why do we need ever taller towers? But that is beside the point. National pride and who knows what else all play a role and let’s be frank: those new towers are nothing if not beautiful.

In our series on the aerodrome control towers of the world, we will now introduce to you the tower that is the tallest in the world. Ah, Kuala Lumpur with 130 meters (425 feet) I can hear you say… Wrong.

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Aerodrome control towers of the world – Budapest, Ferihegy

On 10/11/2009, in Towers of the world, by steve

FerihegyThe origins

The Budapest area has had three airports before operations moved to the current location, Ferihegy. The first Hungarian aviation pioneers tried their wings at Rakosmezo, a forlorn and ill-equipped pasture where enthusiasm was the only thing that kept those daring souls in the air. The first “real” airport was at Matyasfold, the second at Budaors on the other side of the Danube. This was a singularly poor choice for an airport, frequent fog and low clouds, combined with hills in almost every direction left many a pilot sweating before their plane bounced on the nicely trimmed grass.

The idea to build a new airport came in 1938 and the tender for the new airport terminal was published in September 1939. The result was announced in December of the same year. The winning design was that of Karoly David jr. who had a truly unique idea: the building, when viewed from above, would resemble a twin-engine propeller aircraft.

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Aerodrome control towers of the world – Schiphol, Amsterdam

On 25/10/2009, in Towers of the world, by steve

Tower No. 3

Tower No. 3

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has had four control towers in its history, with number three and four doing service simultaneously these days. Number four is a strange looking creature, sitting out in the fields and watching over the airport’s fifth runway.

However, this article is about tower number three, the tall, torch-like edifice on the grounds of the central area of the airport. With her height of 101 meters (330 ft) she was the tallest tower in the world when built in 1991. Schiphol is the world’s lowest major airport; its entire area is below sea level, with the lowest point 3.4 meter (11 ft) below. 

The tower had a somewhat troubled start.

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New series on Roger-Wilco – aerodrome control towers of the world

On 25/10/2009, in Towers of the world, by steve

Your input is also needed!

EdinburghMany articles have been written about aerodrome control towers and with their wealth of data and nice pictures, the articles are certainly interesting and enjoyable. In our new series on the towers we want to do something different. Nice pictures and some basic data like height will be there but beyond that, we will dig for the lesser known facts related to these imposing buildings.

They all have a story to tell beyond wanting to be the tallest in the world. Things that happened during their design or construction, things that happened after they were commissioned, things that happened to the people working in them.

We will be reviewing the air traffic control towers of the world through those special stories, presenting a picture probably never before seen.

Please help us to create this new view by sending us your data, information, stories or suggestions relevant to the tower of your choice! Email us here.

Thank you!

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