Last Friday my flying club, Capital City Aviation set up a tour of Port Columbus's tower (KCMH). This was my first time seeing the operations inside the tower at an airport and it's something I definitely recommend to any pilot. The staff were very friendly, and they took extra time for the pilots, explaining everything and answering all of our questions.
The big hit for me was the radar room, Port Columbus has about ten radar terminals, each with a large screen showing the radar returns, and smaller monitors on top displaying information such as IFR enroute charts, weather, PIREPs, and NTOAMs. The radar screen itself is amazing, packing a lot of information in a very concise and surprisingly easy to read manner (once you have someone explain what some of the numbers and symbols mean).
Up top, the "tower" portion is for the ground and on airport operations. The visibility is excellent of course, I could stand in the middle of the tower and have a 360 view of both ends of CMH's runways (there are rolling lifter stands for shorter folks). In the tower, there are monitors set up also showing radar returns from aircraft around the airport. At the time we toured the airport, there were three people in the tower, one guy handled the takeoffs and landings ("tower"), another the ground operations, and finally a very nice woman was handling the departure clearances and flow control.
All in all it was a very education and interesting experience, it was great placing faces to the voices. It gave me a greater sense of appreciation that these hard-working men and women are there to help the pilot and to prevent people from losing their lives. I'd like to go back solo and spend more time just sitting around and talking more with the people who work there!
If you're a pilot, take some time to visit your local airport and tour their tower. If they're like Port Columbus, they'll be very accommodating and pilot-friendly. Port Columbus preferred we visited during the weekday, simply because they could handle a large group better when they weren't busy, and midday during the week is fairly slow.
'Til next time, clear skies!