Passengers flying into or out of Tucson International Airport (TUS) from the peaceful skies of Southern Arizona notice a 119-foot-tall tower that became the city’s third-tallest building. A new $535,000 air traffic control tower was inaugurated by the Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) in October 1958 to commemorate its 10th anniversary. The colorful tower showcased Tucson’s rich cultural heritage by putting red neon in strategic locations. Not to mention the vintage white and blue neon lettering down the side spelled out T-U-C-S-O-N, which welcomed travelers to the Old Pueblo.
The tower was enclosed, modern, and equipped with an elevator. This tower was first class compared to the original one, which stood on a wooden frame on the tarmac in front of the three hangars on the west side of the airport.
The tower is a treasured architectural icon of Tucson and continues to serve as communications and airfield markers for pilots using the TUS’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s inspection facilities. Having served nearly 12 million aircraft operations, and as the second oldest tower at a commercial airport in the United States, after 58 years it was retired from active duty.
In 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the opening of a new $40 million, 252-foot air traffic control tower built on the south side of the airfield allowing controllers clear views of the entire airfield and equipping them with the latest technology and equipment for safety, security, and customer service. Additionally, the design of a 1,600-solar panel adjacent to the 13,000-square-foot building generates enough power to support all the facility’s electrical needs for several hours on sunny days.
The TAA is dedicated to providing Tucsonans and visitors to Southern Arizona with excellence in aviation services and facilities, hallmarked by unparalleled safety, security, and customer service. The current tower was designed with environmental benefits like a light-colored roof that reflects the desert sun’s heat away from the building, and insulated windows to reduce the amount of energy needed to keep the controller work area cool.
The iconic tower on the north side of the airfield continues to shimmer, welcoming everyone to T-U-C-S-O-N.
The Tucson Airport Authority is a unique independent nonprofit created and developed by community business leaders and established by Arizona state charter in 1948. The TAA operates Tucson International Airport (TUS), the region’s major commercial airport, and Ryan Airfield (RYN), a general aviation airport west of Tucson.