Tower takes shape

The cap is hoisted into place Credit: Mel Barham, ITV Granada

It is taking one of the tallest cranes in Europe to put the finishing touches to the structure of Manchester Airport’s newly constructed £16 million air traffic control tower.

The crane was needed to lift the 168 tonne sub-cab section up 60 metres in the air, before being guided to its finished position on the top of the tower shaft, to give the tower its finished effect on the Manchester skyline.

The sub-cab is the equivalent size of a four-storey detached house and has been built on the ground before being hoisted up by the super crane and permanently placed on top of the newly built tower shaft.

It took six smaller cranes to assemble the finished 90 metre tall crane in order to enable it to carry out the works. The crane was brought in on 25 articulated lorries to the site. The super crane will lift the sub-cab onto the column, with two ‘banksmen’ sitting on top with radios, charged with guiding the two 10mm guide rods into place. The sub-cab will be home to several departments within the airport including fire watch and apron control who guide aircraft to their gates. The sub-cab is the section that gives the tower its iconic look.

The sub-cab will be lifted as a skeleton shell and then the exterior works such as cladding and getting the windows in place will come once it is in its final position hung nearly 60 metres from the ground.

To ensure safety there will be a 90 metre exclusion zone in place around the tower and the north fire station will be moved to a remote location, so even the main taxiways at the airport – Alpha, Delta, Charlie and Fairies Apron will be out of use.

Andrew Harrison, Manchester Airport’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “After all the hard work and planning everyone is very excited that the final piece of the puzzle will be put in place. There is still plenty to do until the tower is ready for use and operational but the installation of the sub-cab is putting the finishing touches to an iconic element of our airport that will take pride of place on the Manchester skyline. By using this impressive super-crane, it will ensure that the job is done safely and quickly.”

The control tower shaft took just nine days to rise from the ground up to its current height of 60 metres. A team from construction and infrastructure company, Morgan Sindall, poured concrete continuously for 222 hours which saw the new control tower shaft increase in height at an average rate of around 27cm an hour.

This method of pouring concrete into a continuously moving form is known as ‘slipform’ and is the same construction technique that was used to construct the famous CN Tower in Toronto.

Dave Smith, managing director at Morgan Sindall, says: “This is a very exciting project to be a part of and we’re delighted to have reached such a significant stage in the development. Morgan Sindall has a strong track record in the aviation sector and we’re currently on site at nine of the UK’s 15 major airports.”

Due to be completed and operational in Spring 2013, Manchester Airport’s new ATC tower is pre-let to NATS, the UK’s leading air traffic control company, which will relocate its existing Manchester air traffic control centre from its current location on top of the Tower Block building in between Terminals One and Three at the airport.

Paul Jones, NATS General Manager Manchester, said: “We have had the best view of the new tower construction and have watched with interest while the cab has been built alongside it. We are keen now to get inside the building and start fitting it out with all the latest air traffic control equipment to ensure that Manchester has a tower it can be rightly proud of.”