After more than a half century of service, Oklahoma’s busiest military control tower is retired

Great State

TINKER AFB, Okla. (KFOR) – Climbing the steps of history, past to present, toward daylight.

We find ourselves this morning inside the stairwell of the old air traffic control tower at Tinker Air Force Base.

“Just the skeleton left,” says longtime controller Aaron Botts. “The heart’s been taken out.”

The power has been turned off recently after more than 50 years of service atop this 110-foot platform, which also served at Aaron Botts’ office for 22 years.

“This was the first spot I ever talked to a live airplane in my career,” he says.

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The tower at Tinker Air Force Base.

The history of flight control towers at Tinker measures itself in decades, from the first scaffolding connected to a hangar, to this tower on the west side of the base, to a new tower, just finished, in the center of the air strips.

It’s taller, has more floor space and is updated in every way.

On a busy day, watch supervisor Travis Reith might oversee 300 flight operations from this new platform.

“We get to see a good range of planes,” he says from his post.

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His crew of local controllers, ground and flight data controllers orchestrate aircraft from just about every type of military plane that flies.

Reed is happy this new tower is ready for any future mission.

“It’s a beautiful facility,” he smiles. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s good to finally be up here.”

It wasn’t long ago, less than a year, the old tower still served as base nerve center.

Master Sgt. Kyle Margeson made one last trip up the stairs and the ladder to have a look around, but won’t miss the wasps or the cramped quarters in the old tower.

Of his new workspace, he says, “It’s a game changer for the base, for the wing and for all the airmen that work in it.”

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Botts, a civilian controller now, practically grew up in the old tower, first put into service in 1970.

He witnessed his share of trips around the sun from this perch.

“It’s the view,” he says, “Every morning when the sun comes up right over the top of these buildings, or goes down over there.”

The new digs are nice, but the old tower still has history on its side.

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