As these photos show, the demolition has begun on the old control tower at Wittman Regional Airport. It’s kind of a melancholy day, since this structure was an icon for so many years here at Oshkosh.
We at EAA have been asked many times over the past few months if there could have been a different outcome than tearing down the tower. The short answer is no, but let me walk through the timeline so there’s a better understanding of why:
When Winnebago County (which owns the airport – EAA simply leases the property for the event) contracted to build a new control tower, the construction company also received the demolition and disposal rights for the old tower. After the new tower was completed, the construction company officially owned the old tower.
It took more months than expected to move the remainder of the FAA equipment out of the old tower. After that, though, the way was cleared to bring down the old tower.
Was there a possibility that the old tower could be preserved by EAA or the county? Even if either party had the desire to do so, the old tower would not have been kept as simply an empty shrine. And there were very costly items that would have been needed in any restoration. For instance, there was no elevator or handicapped access to the tower, which would be required if it would welcome visitors or staff. The heating and ventilating system had been makeshift for many years, and there were some structural issues beginning to emerge, as one would find on a 45-year-old building.
We’ve also been asked about giving away or selling the bricks from the old tower. We had even talked with county officials about selling bricks, since local governments are always looking for ways to make extra revenue. Unfortunately, the construction company did not wish to take the extra time and expense of bringing the tower down brick-by-brick. Also, most of the bricks have asbestos covering or been exposed to asbestos, so we were told that the bricks could not distributed to the public without an expensive cleanup, if it was even possible.
We’ll probably see the teardown last several days, then the site will be cleaned up. What will go in that space for 2009, if anything, is still unknown. It certainly will look different this year out on the flight line, though.