When I first started training at my new job, my boss offered if we were interested to set up a tour of the CVG Tower and TRACON. I regret not taking a tour of the NY TRACON or the FRG Tower, I jumped at this chance. A few weeks after I started I said I wanted to take him up on it and he arranged it for this past week when I was working and anyone in the department could go.
I was excited and we walked about the 1/2 mile to the tower from our offices. A great gentleman gave us a tour, his name was Randy. I loved Randy because he’s about 57 years old, but when adjusting the scopes and it did what he wanted he would mutter “sweet!” Which I thought was awesome and hilarious for a guy dressed in business casual.
CVG used to be a very busy airport with Delta and DHL in its heyday around 2005. Now, Delta’s pretty much gone, DHL is scaling back and they went from probably hundreds of flights an hour to about 200 flights a day. It is still Class B airspace, though. So while the tower is huge, and the TRACON has about 25 stations, there isn’t much activity or staffing.
We started the tour in the classroom for radar training. It was neat to see how they look at the aircraft on their scopes and the alerts that can happen. Randy reminded us that “Pushing Tin” isn’t really an accurate depiction of what goes on, it’s a bit more mundane. The classroom was covered with pieces of paper of everything funny said during a training session. It’s nice to see they have a sense of humor!
Next we moved onto the tower simulator. Huge screens and then a mock desk like up in the tower. The instructor they had there showed us what is would look like during the day, raining, night, foggy. We went over a lot of the screens and what they tell the controllers. I guess not too many towers have a simulator, but they said this was good for training abnormal situations and get new controllers used to the airspace being busy.
We went up to the real tower next. What a view! The guys up there were pretty relaxed since maybe two planes took off while we were there, and one landed. The one from Paris that everyone always mentions, but it was a good view to watch it land. I saw the touch screens that help them contact other frequencies really quickly (I wish it was that easy in the plane sometimes!) And them preparing strips and using them for clearances. I wish it was a Sunday when we were there so I could see all the DHL big airplanes I always pass.
Back downstairs to the TRACON. First we stopped in the room with all the servers and things that make it work. Mainly, it was saying how big the computers used to be and even the terminal scopes they use don’t have to be as big as they are but they’re that way so they fit already in the holes in the wall.
The TRACON was dimly lit, Randy stated that it actually doesn’t need to be that way anymore with the new radars, but it’s what everyone is used to so they kept it that way. We went over to the old “monitor” positions they don’t really use anymore. These three scopes were used in the heyday and they had controllers watching the spaces inbetween the parallel runways, if a pilot laterally went wrong and into the buffer zone between the runways, they could jump in and correct it. Normally letting the guy who did it wrong land and making the others who were right go around. Not too fair, but I get it, you don’t want him to screw up again, rather just get him on the ground.
It was a great visit and I learned a lot! I highly suggest if you get the chance go to a large tower and a TRACON, I wish I had done it in New York as well. And you can bet, I’ll probably still apply to open ATC positions until I age out. It’s worth a try at least.