New control tower opens at regional airport

Waterloo Regional International Airport controller Alison Lompart sits in front of some of the latest aviation technology used in the new control tower. The 360 degree tower windows provide a panoramic view of all runways, taxiways and aprons.
The new Waterloo Region International Airport control tower.
By Carrie Debrone
October 4. 2017
Kitchener Citizen

Air traffic controllers at the Region of Waterloo International Airport have a new vantage point.

The new $5-million control tower at the Breslau airport is completed and in use. It was paid for by NAV Canada, the private corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation service, as part of its $500-million investment to update airport infrastructure across Canada.

One of the oldest airport control towers in Canada, the original tower, which sits next to the terminal, will be demolished this week.

“It was important for NAV Canada to invest in a new tower here. With 100,000 movements plus every year, we need good infrastructure for now and into the future,” said John Urban, NAV’s General Manager of Flight Information for Toronto Region.

Constructed over the last two years, the new, larger tower is located about a mile away from the original one, and at 19.4 meters high stands about five meters taller. It was relocated towards the centre of the airport’s 1,000 acres, providing clearer sightlines for controllers to see the runways, taxiways and aprons. Controllers received two full days of training in preparation for the transition to the new tower.

Since the old tower’s construction in 1969, the airport has seen a lot of growth. The old tower used to be in the centre of the airport’s main flight activity, but NAV officials explained that expansion has altered the airport’s centre of activity, making the new tower location far better.

In recent years, the airport’s main runway has been extended by just over one kilometer, a new terminal was added, and it now supports over 100,000 aircraft movements a year with a mix of local and commercial traffic. WestJet and Sunwing airlines provide passenger service from the airport.

Steve Boyd, Unit Operations Specialist, said the controllers are “ecstatic” about the new facility, which he said is capable of meeting any future runway expansion that may happen at the local airport in the next 50 years.

It features 360 degree windows, the latest in weather and navigational technology, ergonomic sit/stand consoles, and electronic flight strips that replace paper ones - technology developed by NAV Canada, which it now sells to airports around the world.

The bottom storeys of the tower include a kitchen, conference room, exercise room, lounge, elevator, office space and a training classroom. The kitchen, gym and lounge provide a place for mentally-taxed controllers to take a required break every two hours to avoid fatigue.

Currently the airport employs 11 controllers, five of which are usually on duty daily.

The airport is also currently training three new controllers, who will eventually work at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The Breslau general aviation airport controls about 700 flights on a fair-weather flying day. Considered the 16th busiest in the country, the number of flights per day here provides a relatively low-key experience for new controllers to learn their craft better before stepping into a job at Pearson, which typically has about 11,000 movements a day.
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