Brian Hill

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 13, 2020) — Workers at Fort Leonard Wood’s Forney Airfield — which also serves as Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport — are putting the finishing touches on “significant upgrades” to the air traffic control tower to better service an increasing number of military and civilian flights in and out of the area.

According to José Palasi, control tower facility chief and one of the Army civilians spearheading the upgrade project, the tower is receiving a much-needed renovation, including new computer consoles, lighting controls and monitoring system.

“The air traffic control consoles were functional but outdated,” he said. “Their layout was useful … when they were built but were not ergonomically or functionally situated for today’s air traffic control operations. The new consoles maximize our small work area and place all the equipment in locations that enhance controller input.”

The technological upgrades bring the tower into the 21st Century, Palasi said.

“The new system has a digital display and touch-screen menu,” he said. “It also has several enhanced maintenance functions — the maintenance menu will tell you where problems exist and what needs to be done to fix them.”

In addition to new technology, Palasi said the tower — which has been in use at Fort Leonard Wood since its arrival here from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in 1976 — needed some new carpet, ceiling work and a fresh coat of paint.

“These are significant upgrades — the tower was in major need of a facelift,” he said.

According to Airfield Manager and Aviation Division Chief Dave Robinson, over the past two years, other improvements at the airfield have kept Fort Leonard Wood in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and Army standards. These include a complete rewiring of the runway lighting system, including the addition of lighted signs and 150 new lights added along a new taxiway.

“With these upgrades, the older copper wiring and mechanical control panel were not able to handle the additional load properly, so, it was determined we would need to add modern fiber optic cable and have a new control panel manufactured,” Robinson said. “Additionally, incandescent light bulbs are not being produced any longer — repair parts are impossible to find — creating a need for more modern LED lighting.”

According to Bill Urena, air traffic control specialist, all the current upgrades are set to be in place by Oct. 1. In the meantime, the air traffic control mission is being performed out of a mobile air traffic control tower being leased from the FAA.

“The mobile tower is a trailer that has windows that provide a 360-degree view for air traffic and also houses all radios, recorders and computers to operate safely and efficiently,” he said.

Forney Airfield has seen increased air traffic in recent years. A contract with a commercial air carrier began in February 2019, bringing daily 30-minute flights to and from St. Louis Lambert International Airport for the region. The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding risk-mitigation protocols have also impacted Forney Airfield, as more and more trainees arrive and depart Fort Leonard Wood via chartered flights with enhanced sanitation measures.

Contractors Paul Harrison (left) and Chris LaCoste bring custom-built computer console equipment to the seventh floor of Forney Airfield’s air traffic control tower Aug. 5. The tower upgrades are set to be completed by Oct. 1. (Photo by Brian Hill)


About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.

More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: