New Vance control tower dedicated to legislator, military advocate

  • Published
  • By David Poe
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Vance Air Force Base ushered in a new era of mission readiness when it dedicated its new, state-of-the-art air traffic control tower during a ceremony here, March 4. 

The $9.5 million Inhofe Air Traffic Control Tower was named in honor of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee senior member and a valued proponent of the project.

The new tower, which has been operating since mid-December, replaced Vance’s previous facility which opened in 1972. Since then, Vance’s pilot training mission has called for a 400 percent increase in air traffic controllers.  Senior Master Sgt. Dale Drake, Vance’s tower chief, said that demand has made the opening of the new tower a welcomed sight.

“The team was very excited to transition to this new facility and they have done a phenomenal job showing pride in their work center,” he said. “They have been making improvements to how we operate while using the new cab layout, equipment functionality and increased vantage points.”

With components such as an in-house simulator system and numerous training spaces, at more than 6,600 square feet, Vance’s new air traffic control hub is approximately three times the size of its predecessor. Lt. Col. Michael Drost, the 71st Operations Support Squadron commander, who oversees air traffic controller Airmen and civilians at Vance, said these upgrades make Inhofe Tower a progressive classroom, as well as a dynamic aviation control center.

“Our trainers now have room to train. They can teach our new 3-levels, as well as our incoming 5-levels and 7-levels without running into the person in the position next to them, and our supervisors have a better view of what’s happening,” he said. “Overall it provides a distinct level of service that’s higher than what we’ve had in the last 40 years and allows our Airmen to grow as Vance trains the next generation of pilots.”

Vance is the leader in FAA-recognized credentialing across Air Education and Training Command with approximately 30 newly certified Airmen per year.

The design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new ATC nerve center, as well as the controlled demolition of the previous facility, is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) compliant with a silver rating. LEED is a prevalent green building certification program used worldwide.

Although the new tower’s mission capability was heralded March 4, it’s also an example of a safe structure. At more than nine stories tall, the new tower can sustain winds at the cab level of up to 80 mph and has a FEMA safe room at its base for up to 250 mph winds.

Inhofe has been an advocate for Vance throughout his tenure on Capitol Hill, including several rounds of Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) hearings. He said the latest investment into the Air Force at Vance is not only an investment in Airmen’s safety and training, but also an investment in northwest Oklahoma.

“The tower is what people look for when they go by and see a great military installation. Every time you put in something new on Vance, it ensures [the base’s] longevity,” Inhofe said. “I’m proud that we were able to get this thing done.”