Facility Spotlight: Lafayette/Purdue University Tower
Friday, October 05, 2012
West Lafayette, Ind., is the most densely populated city in Indiana and home
to Purdue University, but it's also home to a 100 percent NATCA
membership facility that you may not know much about.
That facility is Lafayette/Purdue University Tower (LAF). This Level
4 facility is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Its membership consists of eight Certified Professional Controllers
LAF members work with controllers at Grissom Radar Approach Control
(RAPCON), Terre Haute Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and
The facility’s air traffic mostly consists of single and twin-engine
trainer aircraft, private and corporate commuter jets, helicopters and
the occasional military aircraft, typically A-10s and UH-60s. A majority
of the traffic LAF members work is generated by Purdue University's
Professional Flight Technology program.
What is interesting about LAF is that the facility is one of few
remaining FAA facilities that doesn't have a Tower Radar Display of any
type. LAF members routinely work 100 operations or more per hour using
nothing more than position reports from student pilots and their
instructors, and binoculars.
In the fall, LAF members see increased traffic and complexity when
the Purdue University Boilermakers football team hosts home games. The mix
of traffic includes numerous spectators flying in to watch the game as
well as banner tow aircraft operations. Temporary flight restrictions
around the football stadium add to the complexity before, during and
after the games. This is in addition to Purdue University’s regularly
scheduled flight classes. There are also numerous University events and
fly-ins throughout the year that require special handling.
With four of eight LAF NATCA members living at least 45 minutes from
the facility, it's difficult to set up regular events outside of the
Union’s quarterly meetings, according to LAF NATCA Facility
Representative Greg Walsh. However, LAF members do not need to hold a
solidarity event to know that their NATCA brothers and sisters support
“The solidarity at LAF is seen in how we take care of each other,”
said Walsh. “We make sure that people get days off that they need off,
while still meeting the needs of the facility.”
Walsh said that LAF NATCA is also encouraging the next generation of controllers to be involved in NATCA.
“Three of the four E-board positions at LAF are held by controllers
with five years or less ATC experience,” said Walsh. “New checkouts are
routinely encouraged to participate on committees alongside experienced
While they may not always be able to get together on a regular
basis, Walsh said that NATCA LAF does have an annual NATCA holiday party
that brings members, spouses and significant others together.
LAF members enjoy numerous activities in their free time. They can get
outside and take a stroll along the Wabash River, visit the Purdue
University Horticulture Gardens or explore the city’s Celery Bog Nature
Area that is home to 195 acres of wetlands, woods and fields. Members
also enjoy home brewing beer, photography and distance running. In fact,
two members are running in a half marathon, and one will run in a full
marathon this November.