Federal Aviation Administration

San Francisco International Airport Cuts Ribbon on New Air Traffic Control Tower

San Francisco International Airport ushered in a new era of efficiency Tuesday with the dedication of its new air traffic control tower.

Federal Aviation Administration officials along with city and airport leaders celebrated the unveiling of the 221-foot-tall, 650-square-foot structure, noting that the state-of-the-art tower beefs up the nation's 11th busiest airport's safety with its unobstructed 235-degree views of the tarmac.

Behind the glass, air traffic controllers will now be able to utilize ground radar systems and touch screens to monitor weather and flight statuses beginning Saturday.

The tower is equipped to handle the FAA's next-generation flight patterns, which have triggered a slew of jet noise complaints along the Peninsula.

Shotsy Foust says her Pacifica home has been rattled by more than 200 jets a day since 2014, under the FAA's recently redesigned flight paths.

"We live on a hill facing the ocean, and all day long, starting at 3:30 in the morning," Foust says of the airplane noise. "We have really good double-paned windows; it doesn't matter."

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The FAA said it did a lot of outreach with surrounding communities when it made the change. But it appears residents from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz to Pacifica didn't know what was coming, as noise complaints went from 800 in August  2014 to 300,000 last August.

Pacifica residents have held meetings, formed committees and have members of Congress making recommendations.

"And we're looking forward to receiving those recommendations and seeing what we can do to address them," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

Meantime, aside from assisting with safety in the skies, the tower, which is nestled in between the first and second terminals, promotes safety on the ground. The new structure is designed to withstand a magnitude-8.0 earthquake.

Footing the bill, the FAA contributed $82 million to cover the costs of the tower's construction while the airport forked over $69 million to make sure the tower would operate efficiently in the airfield's existing infrastructure.

Huerta talked about the unique collaboration on the project.

"In a striking departure in the FAA's normal way of doing business, SFO designed the tower and oversaw the construction work while insuring that the tower was built to FAA specifications," Huerta said.

More than 2,000 workers and 500,000 hours were utilized for the project, which broke ground in June 2012.

"Now we have another place that people can come to see and marvel, and I can’t wait for tonight to see it lit in orange," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said.

As for the noise issues, the next meeting of the select committee is 1 p.m. Thursday at the Palo Alto City Council chambers.

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