WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's air traffic controller, Airways, has commissioned what it says will be one of the country's last brick and mortar control towers as it looks toward more digital systems in the future.
Located at the Wellington Airport, the US$13.5 million structure is a 32-meter tall structure designed to look as if it's leaning into the region's prevailing winds.
"As we look to the future of a more digitally-driven way of delivering air traffic control, it's fitting that one of the last of these physical towers to be built will be our most distinctive," said Graeme Sumner, CEO of Airways.
It replaces a 61-year old tower that, according to Airways, "needed to be replaced before digital technology had advanced sufficiently to meet the immediate ongoing needs of the airport."
The tower will support more than 97,000 flights each year, beginning Sunday after it enters live service.
"Our air traffic control towers are icons of New Zealand's aviation industry, and one of our most tangible and visible representations of the work we do every day keeping our skies safe," Sumner said.
Airways has already begun the process of converting some of the country's air traffic control towers to all-digital facilities.
"We're confident that digital tower technology now has the capability to provide greater aviation safety, resiliency and the option to provide extended levels of services to New Zealand's regions," Sumner said. "Invercargill will be the first airport to launch a digital tower in 2020, and a contingency digital tower will also be in place in Auckland by 2020."
Intelligent Aerospace reported in July that Airways had signed a deal with Germany's Rohde & Schwarz to provide IP-based communications systems as part of the ongoing conversion.