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East Midlands Airport control tower celebrates 20th birthday

  • The tower is 20 years old this month
  • It was built in 1999 costing £3.5m
  • The view from the top ensures the entire 1050 hectare airfield can be seen
Credit: East Midlands Airport

Staff at East Midlands Airport are celebrating the 20th birthday of their Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower.

The 51-meter high tower was constructed in 1999 at a cost of £3.5m.

At the time it was the third tallest ATC tower in the country after London's Stansted and Luton airports. Today it ranks 4th tallest in the UK.

Credit: East Midlands Airport

From the top of the tower operators controls the airspace up to 105,000 feet above ground level and cover an area of 150 square miles.

On average 320 aircraft movements pass through the airspace each day, serving just under five million passengers a year,.

Things have moved on in 20 years though, the tower was one of the first to install electronic flight progress strips, doing away with the use of paper copies which some ATC towers still rely on today.

Its radar room has also had a £130,000 technology upgrade.

Credit: East Midlands Airport

The airport opened in 1965 with it's airspace being controlled from a smaller tower.

But as the airport expanded a taller tower was needed to keep up with demand.

The old tower still exists today and is kitted out to be used as a back-up if needed.

12 reinforced concrete pillars and weighing 1000 tonnes ensure the tower stands tall.

1000 litres of water are used as a counter-balance ensuring on very windy days it can sway slightly with the wind.

The entire 1050 hectare airfield can be seen from the the glass viewing platform at the top, known as the panoramic visual control room.

Paul Kay, EMA's Air Traffic Services Manager, says:

As well as having the best office view in the region, I am very privileged to run the tower at EMA.

– Paul Kay, Air Traffic Services Manager

"It's not without its challenges as all of my colleagues would testify when working through the night.

"But we have a fantastic team here and our reputation as a great place to work is recognised nationally and evidence by the fact that a number of my colleagues have worked here for so long.

"During the 20 years that this tower has been in operation, the airport has grown considerably and that makes our job more exciting.

"I'm delighted that, on my watch, we have secured investment to upgrade the radar room to future proof it for years to come and, in the not too distant future, I will be announcing exciting plans to take roadshows into schools to inspire the next generation of air traffic controllers."

Credit: East Midlands Airport