The Houston Airport System officially cut the ribbon on a new, state-of-the-art air traffic control tower at Ellington Airport that will both support its general aviation tenants and future operations at the Houston Spaceport.
The ceremony held March 29, 2019 christened the $12.4 million project that replaces the former air traffic control tower, which was built in 1955. The new tower stands 143 feet tall, nearly twice the height of the 1955 tower. The new tower will feature new radios to improve communication with planes. The airfield's lighting-control system will be updated to a more robust and reliable system. An automated weather observation system also will be installed. That new system can determine cloud heights, temperature, rainfall amounts, the presence of lightning in the area and other conditions.
The new tower is vital to the continuation of all Ellington Joint Reserve Base military and aviation missions, and all other general aviation activities. The Ellington JRB is utilized by the Texas Air National Guard, Texas Army National Guard and the Coast Guard as aviation operational centers and hubs of distribution supporting federal and state civil authorities.
The tower will enable the Joint Reserve Base to provide air traffic services and ensure timely and safe establishment of aviation operational centers by the military services, as well as support the continuation of all aviation missions, safely, in a high traffic area of mixed high-performance military and civilian commercial air traffic.
By unanimous vote in 2017, City Council approved a plan that calls for the use of the $3.1 million Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant from the state and $9.3 million from the Houston Airport System Airport Improvement Fund.
The Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant will help cover the cost of designing and constructing the new tower, including a utility building, utility yard and parking area, and the purchase and installation of navigational and communication equipment necessary for effective operation.