PALMDALE, California – From the top of a 160-foot air traffic control tower at Air Force Plant 42, one may understand why Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base, California, refers to the area as the ‘center of the aerospace testing universe.’
Although primarily desert landscape with scenic mountain views off in the distance, the area has a storied history dating back to the 1930s, when a small airstrip was built there. It is now home to aerospace agency and industry giants, like NASA, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and others.
The Air Force unveiled the air traffic control tower during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its completion Nov. 30 in Palmdale. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, along with its contractor, Stronghold Engineering of Perris, California, oversaw the tower’s design and construction.
The new tower includes updated technology and advanced features aimed at improving operational capability and safety for the Air Force and its mission partners at Plant 42. The construction contract was awarded in the fall 2020 at a cost of more than $17 million.
Justin Gay, deputy district engineer for the Corps’ Los Angeles District, was one of several presenters during the event, which also included local and state dignitaries.
While it took some time to complete the design, Gay said, “quality is what it takes, and that’s what we are shooting for always with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
He emphasized one of the significant points of the construction of the tower was more than 80,000 labor hours were worked with no lost-time incidents.
“However great or pretty a building is, what we are most concerned about is, ‘do the folks that are building it go home every day,’” Gay said.
The significance of the ceremony couldn’t have been more punctuated than with the rollout of the B-21 aircraft the same week at Northup-Grumman, also located at Air Force Plant 42, Higer said.
“That is the latest in a very long line of things that have happened because of this installation and the capabilities here,” he said. “When I see all of that at the center of the aerospace testing universe, I see a tremendous amount of awesomeness and partnership. This ceremony is a great example of that partnership.”
During his presentation, Gay recognized several members of the LA District’s team, including Chad Allen, the Corps’ LA District resident engineer of construction at Edwards Air Force Base, who’s office also provides oversight for Plant 42 construction activities.
“The air traffic control tower was a significant achievement for the Los Angeles District, our Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Plant 42 partners,” Allen said. “The 160-foot structure would not have been constructed without a world-class U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ team and our contractor, Stronghold Engineering.”
Allen also applauded the Corps’ LA District’s Contracting Division for supporting the team – led by Danny Carrasco, James Costantino and Lucia Carvajal – throughout the procurement phase; James Elsberry with the Corps’ Sacramento District, who led the design team on the project; and the Corps’ construction team, led by Doug Delaney, project engineer, and Sarah Coles, office engineer for the project, “who both provided exceptional onsite support resulting in less than a 3.5-percent cost growth and more than 80,000 labor hours worked with no lost time incidents,” Allen said.
“I think we have a group here that can really appreciate the significance of what this tower means, the longevity of this particular plant and just the community at large,” Gay said. “The longevity and the future history of how we support our nation’s warfighters starts right here today.”