New airport tower dedicated in Memphis

(WMC-TV) - Officials dedicated a new 336-foot control tower Thursday at Memphis International Airport.

The Memphis Tower, part of a $72 million project, is more than two-thirds taller than the old tower. It is also more technologically advanced and custom-made for an expected shift from radar-to satellite-based air traffic management.

Officials said the new tower will handle more that 300,000 landings and take offs a year, and will be a boost to the city's reputation as a transportation hub.

"Everybody else is talking about what you cannot do," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said. "We're saying what you can do."

"When you hear planes flying over, and you think of it as a distraction. just think of it as revenue," Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell added.

Part of the new tower's success will be tied to a highly trained staff and the latest radar systems.

"This tower allows us to have the flexibility and growth potential as we move forward for the next 25 years and beyond," Air Traffic District Manager Mike Baker said.

The new tower has been in operation since June 20, although dedication was delayed by uncertainty over funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this story.