A ribbon cutting on Sept. 25 officially opened the new control tower at Easton, Maryland’s Newnam Field (ESN). Controllers went to work two days later, learning procedures for the state’s second-busiest airport. The tower is scheduled to become operational Oct. 26, almost a month earlier than originally planned.
Easton’s is a contract tower, operated under FAA supervision by Midwest Air Traffic Control Services. Although the contract company is far from local, chief controller Mike Rishel was born and raised not 10 miles from the tower’s site. His “homecoming” comes after 14 years of Navy and civilian air traffic control work, most of it far from home.
Construction of the tower took only 203 days, “and that included some unavoidable delays,” said Mike Henry, the airport’s manager. The bristling antennas and lightning rods are 77 feet, 2 inches high, Henry said. The cab floor is 56 feet off the ground. Fortunately for controllers and visitors, an elevator can whisk them from ground to cab, circumventing the alternative: 155 steps.
At the ribbon cutting, which attracted state, county and local dignitaries as well as Easton-based pilots and business operators, County Commissioner Buddy Harrison pointed out the airport’s economic benefits: The direct benefit is roughly $55 million a year, while indirect benefits – according to a state survey – are nearly double that amount. The airport is completely self-supporting, he pointed out.
Easton’s airport started life as a World War II practice and emergency field for bombers and fighters. Following the war it was turned over to town and county management, at which time a small terminal building topped by a control tower was built. That tower operated – sometimes sporadically – into the 1950s, when a scheduled airline served Easton, but was torn down long ago.
Currently, planning is under way to extend one of the airport’s two runways and new hangars are sprouting as business aviation increases.