Arizona Republic

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport has dedicated its new air traffic control tower, replacing an outdated tower that dates back to the airport's past life as an Air Force base.

The tower will go into service Saturday.

At the dedication ceremony on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Arizona, called the new tower "an essential investment" in the airport's future.

He said modernizing the airport's infrastructure will "help it become an even more forceful economic engine for the East Valley and Arizona."

Airport officials and elected leaders see the new control tower's debut as a launch point for future economic expansion.

Why the old tower has safety issues

Gateway Airport's existing control tower was built in 1970 and is a relic from when the airport was known as Williams Air Force Base and served as a training ground for Air Force pilots.

When it became a commercial airport, its staff recognized the air traffic control tower was too short and the cab — the room at the top where the controllers work — was too small to support an airport with three 10,000-foot runways, airport director Brian O'Neill said.

Recent growth in passenger traffic and the East Valley economy made getting a new tower built even more pressing, said Mesa Mayor John Giles, who served as chair of the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport Authority during the tower's planning and construction.

He said a Federal Aviation Administration study showed that the old tower was not safe, in part because its height did not allow controllers to see the end of the runway.