Crews begin removing McCarran tower to make way for new one

Updated June 2, 2017 - 7:51 pm

The third attempt was the charm Friday afternoon, when demolition crews finally plucked a 525-square-foot cab from atop the decommissioned air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport.

Strong winds hampered two previous tries this week to remove the glass-paneled compartment that once served as a look-out point for the controllers charged with guiding jetliners in and out of Las Vegas.

The 185-foot-tall tower, built in 1983, was taken out of service last August to make way for a new $99 million tower standing 352 feet tall. The obsolete structure sits within an active airfield, creating an extra dose of caution during a nearly $2 million tear-down project expected to last through summer.

Bringing down the controller’s cab was no easy feat. Work was scheduled to start Wednesday afternoon, but gusty winds kept crews from moving forward, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Demolition workers reconvened at 6 a.m. Thursday to separate the cab from the top of the tower. Blow torches tore through bolts and metal, while a giant tether was wrapped around the cab like a giant, black ribbon. The crane’s boom was briefly extended, then retracted when winds kicked up and brought work to a halt until the next day.

The crane swung back into action at 6 a.m. Friday as crews spent another six hours preparing for the cab’s removal. Then, there was movement at the stroke of noon.

Finally separated, the cab was hoisted a few feet above the tower and was moved a few feet north.

Despite the work, it was business as usual at McCarran. Planes continued to soar into the sky, and most vehicles whizzed through the airport’s winding roads, except for a few taxicab drivers who pulled over to watch the cab lowered onto a parking lot previously used by FAA employees.

The nine-minute descent was faintly reminiscent of the midnight crystal-ball drop in New York’s Times Square to ring in the new year at midnight — except this was high noon at the nation’s eighth-busiest airport.

Crews from Advanced Integrated Solutions started gutting the tower’s interior in March, starting with hazardous materials abatement, FAA officials said. By mid-April, power conduits and conductors were removed, while walls, ceilings and light fixtures got torn out.

The ground radar system, also removed in April, will be refurbished for a new air traffic control tower under construction at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

After the demolition dust clears, the tower’s 13,740-square-foot base building will be converted into office space for Clark County’s Department of Aviation, airport officials said.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Find @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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