New air traffic control tower is a big part of the future of Mesa Gateway Airport

MESA, Arizona – The new air traffic control tower at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport has been in operation for more than a month, replacing a tower that was more than half a century old.

The tower is named after the late U.S. Senator. John McCain, who was instrumental in removing federal rules that limited the ability of airports to build towers. It went live in August. 27.

“The old tower was built in the 1970s as an air force base,” said airport spokesman Ryan Smith.

“So we’ve actually needed a new air traffic control tower for a while now.”

The John S. McCain III Air Traffic Control Tower is nearly 200 feet tall, 60 percent taller than the old tower. Its cab also accommodates eight controllers instead of four.

“This air traffic control tower is going to get us through for decades to come,” Smith said.

He stressed that the new tower would need to keep up with the airport’s massive growth and record passenger activity.

The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport just had its busiest month in August, handling more than 120,000 passengers, he said.It offers direct flights to 60 destinations in the United States and Canada, serving nearly 2 million passengers
one year.

A recent study by the Arizona Department of Transportation found that the airport generates $1.8 billion in economic activity annually and employs more than 10,000 people.

As the airport continues to grow, the next big project is the construction of a 30,000-square-foot terminal concourse that will have five gates. It will replace a portable structure that was temporary when it was installed in 2008.

Construction of the new terminal began on Monday and will take 12-18 months to complete.

“This will be the last major project we’ve done at the airport, but it will take us through this and allow us to grow over the next decade,” Smith said.

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