| Indianapolis International Airport
New Control Tower Taking Off
Soon, nothing will block the view of air-traffic controllers
in the new control tower at Indianapolis International Airport.
Now under construction, the 340-ft.-tall air-traffic-control
tower (ATCT for short) will be one of the tallest in the country
when it opens in early 2006. By comparison, the tower at Chicago's
O'Hare International Airport is about 260 ft. tall.
The Indianapolis tower is one of two structures being built
by Hunt/Smoot Aviation Contractors, a joint venture between
Hunt Construction Group Inc. of Indianapolis and Smoot Construction
LLC of Columbus, Ohio. The $32 million project also includes
a two-story Terminal Radar Approach Control facility, which
goes by the acronym TRACON.
The project is part of a grand plan to replace major structures
at the airport, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, spokeswoman for
the Federal Aviation Administration.
"It's to provide our employees with a state-of-the-art
location, and the tower will also help usher in a new era
of aviation at the airport," she said. In separate projects,
the airport is to construct a new midfield terminal during
the next few years, and a highway project is moving Interstate
70 a short distance south of its present location to allow
Two main components comprise the tower structure, said Randy
Williams, project manager for Hunt/Smoot. "The shaft
is cast-in-place concrete, with a structural-steel cab,"
For the shaft construction, Hunt/Smoot made use of a jump-form
"Every 9 ft., inside and outside forms were set in place,"
Williams said. "When that concrete hardened, it became
the foundation for raising the forms to the next level."
A 406-ft. boom lift hauled the concrete up to fill the forms,
Williams said. The shaft is 28 ft. in diameter, and the concrete
walls are 18 in. thick, and it all sits on a 55-ft.-sq., 8-ft.-thick
mat foundation, he said.
Atop the shaft is the so-called "cab" structure,
a 715-sq.-ft. perch with room for nine controller positions.
The new structures will replace current buildings originally
opened in 1972 that include a 140-ft. tower, just four controller
positions in the cab and about a quarter of the square footage
Cory said that, from the cab, controllers will keep watch
over the immediate grounds of the airport and control traffic
in an approximate 5-mi. radius. It was up to architect Jim
Terada and his team from Teng & Associates Inc. of Chicago
to maximize the controllers' ability to see clearly.
First-Ever Design Element
For the first time in any American air-traffic-control tower,
innovative design and construction of the cab will eliminate
all line-of-sight obstructions, said Terada, Teng's project
manager for the airport project.
"The roof of the cab is supported by a single column,"
slightly offset from the center of the tower, he said. "It
allows the entire perimeter of the cab to be butt-glazed."
The firm's design means the cab windows will be free of the
exterior columns and window mullions that in earlier tower
designs have obscured slices of an airport from the view of
the controllers. The 1 3/8-in. laminated-glass windowpanes
will be joined by silicone sealants to provide clear, 360-degree
vision. Steel elements frame the other occupied areas atop
the shaft, and the ancillary floors below the cab will feature
aluminum and glass curtain wall and windows.
While controllers in the ATCT cab will handle air traffic
close to the airport and on the runways and taxiways themselves,
another group of controllers will work about 30 stories below
in the 35,000-sq.-ft. TRACON facility. With their eyes on
computer and radar consoles, they are to keep tabs on traffic
within about 50 mi. of the airport.
The TRACON and its link to the tower are precast-on-steel
construction, with metal and glass curtain wall. In addition
to the actual air-traffic-control equipment, the building
will house a training facility and administrative offices.
A full basement below the two-story structure will include
emergency electric generators, elevator and HVAC equipment
along with other mechanicals.
Has Backup Systems
The Illinois economy overall shows a mixed picture.It is
critical that the facility be able to operate under virtually
any adverse circumstance, so plenty of backup systems are
in the plan, said Nick Georgiou, vice president and principal
"There are two of everything, a high degree of redundancy,"
"There's a huge uninterrupted power supply system to
support all of the computers and FAA systems."
The building itself also must weather adverse conditions,
"The project did undergo wind-tunnel testing to fine
tune the structural design," he said.
Constructing a facility filled with technology and redundancy
is not easy. "The very issue of running cable trays 340
ft. high is a major challenge," Williams said. Coordinating
the work at the top also was a test of coordination because
multiple workers had to share a small number of square feet.
The site's location was a blessing and a curse, he added.
Located "land-side," off of the secure airport grounds,
there was little to get in the way of the workers, and no
buried utilities to avoid. But because of the lack of utilities,
"we had to use temporary power to the site," Williams
"The airport is running sewer, water, gas and permanent
electric to us from quite a distance."
Airport Has Other Activity
The Hunt/Smoot construction site is only one component of
the massive work now under way at the airport. The most prominent
element is a $974 million midfield terminal project, including
a new terminal, concourse and parking garage as well as site
preparation, utility and roadwork, and airfield improvements.
The terminal is to open in 2008, and initial sitework began
Farther along is the relocation of about 4 mi. of I-70 along
the south edge of the airport to make way for airport growth
and allow a new interchange leading to the midfield terminal.
Though the roadwork is far from complete, traffic recently
was moved to the new lanes of the interstate.
As for the new control tower and TRACON facility, construction
is to be finished by February, though it will take another
10 to 12 months to install all of the necessary equipment
and make it fully functional.
Cory said the operation will employ about 80 people, including
air-traffic controllers, facilities-maintenance personnel
and managers. About 30 to 35 will be on-site at any given
time, she said.