Everything Under Control
Piers H and J

Calling All Apron Controllers!

Apron controllers observe everything that moves on an airport’s apron, taxiways, and runways. They keep a vigilant eye on the complex traffic situation and give the pilots instructions. Especially at Germany’s largest airport, this calls for a good view – after all, in 2019 an average of 1,400 aircraft took off and landed here every day. Since the new Terminal 3 will also generate more ground traffic in the south of the airport, a new apron control tower is being built here.

Up, Up and Away

The first four levels are integrated in Pier H, and above that the tower continues on up to a height of nearly 70 meters. From the fifth level up, it was built with the aid of “climbing formwork”. The outer walls of each level were created by pouring concrete directly into the formwork. After the concrete had cured, a 65-meter-tall crane raised it is so work could proceed at the next-higher level. To let it reach the upper levels, the crane’s base was gradually raised to a height of 20 meters. The operators had to do their jobs with millimeter precision at a dizzying height.

The first four levels of the control tower are integrated in a pier.

The apron control tower grows skyward to reach its final height of nearly 70 meters.

With the aid of “climbing formwork”, the same work sequence is repeated to build each successive level at an accelerating pace.

The turret extends out about six meters beyond the shaft of the tower.

The composite thermal insulation system is currently being installed on the apron control tower. To this end, the facade is first insulated. The next step will be reinforcement and finishing plaster. 

From Level to Level

The advantage of climbing framework is that, because identical work steps repeat over and over again, the tower rises quickly. The first 12 levels mainly contain, apart from an elevator shaft and a stairwell, the required equipment and systems. The turret, which extends outward by about six meters from the tower body, comprises levels 13 and 14. It is where the apron traffic controllers work, surrounded by slanted glass panes so they can visually monitor a 300-degree area around Terminal 3. It’s especially important for them to have an unhindered view of the apron.

Precision Work for a 360° View

Until mid-2022, the turret of the new apron control tower was still just an exposed concrete slab. Then work resumed, surrounding it with a total of 15 large glass panes, each of which measured three by 3.3 meters. No easy task: a crane equipped with a special suction plate had to lift them from the ground all the way up to their final resting place more than 60 meters above the ground. Installers waiting on suspended scaffolds at the turret received them one by one and guided them into place. Extreme precision was a must for attaching them to their frames, which are angled out to provide a downward view. The various involved specialists worked hand in hand with total concentration to ensure that the apron controllers have a 360° view to keep a constant watchful eye on all the taxiways and runways.