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Construction on new radar tower underway

10 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Michael Nease

Groundwork construction on a platform for the station’s new digital airport surveillance radar machine and tower is currently underway on top of Legal Hill.

The $1.6 million construction project began in August with the leveling of the hill.

Workers hammered 11,500 cubic yards of granite off the top in order to create a platform on which to mount the new radar and tower. Building 1214, which previously housed the station law center, was demolished Monday in conjunction with this project, said Project Engineer Dave McCollum.   

One of the main concerns with the project, which has gone very smoothly, is that the construction would interfere with the existing radar, said McCollum.

“That was our biggest worry -- that when we got in there we’d disturb the radar that’s running next to (the site),” he said. “But we managed to keep down the amount of equipment we had there and didn’t create too much vibration, so it never disturbed the old radar.” 

According to station air traffic control, the new radar system is set to be up and running by July -- at about the same time as ATC moves into the new buildings and control tower across the flight line.

The main advantage of the new system is that it trouble-shoots itself, and therefore will be more reliable and drastically cut down on maintenance for the radar technicians. The new system will also be all digital, have fewer moving parts and consume less power than the current one, said Cpl. Mallory Campbell, radar technician and native of Los Angeles.

“It’s basically going to be all computer monitored,” said Campbell. “It’s going to tell us exactly what’s wrong with it, as opposed to now when we see a problem, we have to go in and literally find it amongst all the electronics.”

The radar generates energy, shoots it out and receives it again as it bounces off things in the environment. The machine’s computers receive and filter the signal to determine what information to show the controllers and what can be discarded, said Campbell.

This machine allows controllers to monitor the air space in the surrounding area and stack aircraft for landing and take off from the air station.

The current radar is about 20 years old. ATC expects the new equipment to arrive in February and be operational by July, but before it can be used to monitor air traffic it must be approved by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector. The current radar will remain in place until the new one is certified, so there may be an overlap of one or two months when both are operational, Campbell said.

The station law offices are now located in the east wing of Building 852, and eventually the only things on top of Legal Hill will be the water and radar towers.

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