Sunday, January 28, 2007

Port Columbus Tower Tour

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!


  1. Hi Pat. Glad you enjoyed the tour of our tower.

    You may enjoy my aviation announcement site, which can be found at...

    Tom Lusch

  2. Your talk about Port Columbus made me smile when I read it. I was a 16 year old, flying my first long-distance cross country from Burke Lakefront to Port Columbus, up to Toledo Express and back (the big triangle). I was nervous! Anyway, the vis was 5 miles, and I was told "November 94589, make 6 mile left base for 10 left (or right...can't recall now)." Now...first of all, approach caught me off guard when he corrected me by adding the "N" to my N number - a reminder I was at an international airfield (was lazy at the home airfield). He also advised me to let him know when I had traffic in sight "traffic is a US Air 737 on final for 10 Left (or right...again...getting old)." When I finally saw the 737, it blocked out most of downtown Columbus...and I'm in a C-152! All the rules of landing behind a big aircraft came rushing to mind and I followed them all...upon reaching the ground, I was told to taxi to Lane Aviation, which I did...but was told to do with with "all due expediency," which I also did...I looked up to see a 727 holding short FOR ME. You could see the guys in the cockpit laughing a bit; I'm sure they were on the company freq getting a laugh out of the little girl flying the little aircraft that they were waiting on! Needless to say, I applied a bit more throttle for some more "expediency." Only to realize upon getting inside that at 16, I didn't have a credit card to purchase fuel! No one had thought of this problem. Lots of folks offered, but in the end, my mom did the deal over the phone from work. Next stop, scantily clad women refueled my aircraft at Toledo Express (think Hooters Air), then back to BKL. It was a BLAST and I'll never forget it. Thanks for bringing up Port Columbus and one of my favorite parts of the trip. By the way, this trip was taken on 8 AUG 1990 - was renting a C-152 WET for $29 an hour. Those were the I'm an AH-64A Apache pilot and CFII as well as military instructor pilot (and have a degree in CS - so I can appreciate your other line of work), the fun of those days paid off...enjoy the Ohio skies - in the pre-GPS era there were many times I wished the farmers would carve the names of the farms in the fields and also put them in the sectionals...there's a lot of farm land there...but you know that!