Adroit Construction Project Superintendent John Gilbert, left, and President Steve Lawrence install blinds for the windows while others work on the finishing touches on the new control tower at the Medford airport Tuesday. The tower will begin operation May 7. - Jim Craven

New airport tower will open next week

Jackson County residents will discover firsthand Tuesday that for one of the best views in the valley, nothing beats the new control tower at the Medford airport.

"You get a whole different view of the town," said Steve Lawrence, president of Adroit Construction Co. of Ashland, which is building the structure.

At 100 feet, the $3.6 million tower can be seen for miles around, offering motorists a new landmark as they head north along Biddle Road.

"It's really iconic," said airport Director Bern Case.

Inside the control tower cab, a panoramic view of the valley shows the Table Rocks, the grain silo in Central Point, Rogue Valley Manor, Highway 62 and Mount McLoughlin.

On May 5, the public will get a chance to see the inside of the flight controller cab in advance of the first official day of operation on May 7.

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, six people at a time will take an elevator up seven stories to the cab.

Case said that once the tower opens officially, Federal Aviation Administration regulations will make it very difficult for the average person to see the inside of the tower.

On Tuesday, workers scurried over the building, running wires, installing equipment and taking care of last-minute details.

Lawrence and John Gilbert, Adroit project superintendent, gingerly stepped on counters that inclined downwards to install blinds next to windows that angle outwards at the top.

"We're not nervous at all," said Lawrence, who was standing in his socks on the counter with the runway below him. "There's no way we could fall through the window."

The windows, designed to withstand 120 mph winds, are about an inch-thick and had to be almost flawless to meet FAA specifications.

To install the glass, a crane had to be brought in that could lift them almost the full 100 feet, holding them with strong suction cups.

Lawrence said the windows are at a 15-degree downward angle to allow less distortion when looking at the runway and less chance of reflection.

Lawrence and Gilbert decided to install the blinds themselves because the work is winding down on the tower and they didn't want to call in a crew for the task.

The tower is designed to withstand earthquakes and has other features to handle just about anything Mother Nature can dish out. For instance, copper cables run down each of the four walls to direct the energy from a lightning strike.

The tower was designed by Skelton, Straus and Seibert Architects and Planners LLP of Medford. Precision Approach Engineering of Medford oversaw management of the project to ensure the tower met myriad federal technical specifications.

The tower is the latest improvement at the airport, which has a new $35 million terminal that opened in January.

Case said the old tower doesn't provide good visibility for the north end of the runway and also is too close to the runway for modern FAA standards.

Even though the old tower is 65 feet tall, it seems dwarfed by the newer structure a few hundred yards to the northwest.

From the higher vantage point, it is easy to see both ends of the runway, including the north end with the Table Rocks dead ahead.

At its base, the tower measures 28 feet by 28 feet, but has about 5,500 feet of room inside for equipment, offices and the control room at the top.

Now that the new tower is built, the old one in the former terminal building will be torn down to make room to expand the Tarmac.

Case said he'd hoped to have the tower operational by March, but he said the FAA commissioning process is more complicated than he expected.

The building is designed to keep up with growth at the airport.

"It'll have at least a 50-year life," said Case.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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