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A busy airport gets a new control tower

The control tower, added during World War II, brought the airport into the modern age.

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Completed in October of 1943, Rochester's new control tower put the city on par with the nation's busiest airports.
Contributed / History Center of Olmsted County

On October 15, 1943, every facility for controlling air traffic became available in Rochester. The addition of a modern air traffic control tower manned 24 hours a day, and a weather bureau station put the Rochester Airport on par with the nation’s busiest airports.

The 14-foot square, wooden and glass structure was built above the northeast corner of the existing hanger and gave controllers an unobstructed view of the surrounding area.

The improvements were none too soon as what had started out as a grassy landing field 15 years earlier was now an important U.S. Army airbase. In addition to more than 60 local aircraft and 10 daily commercial flights, the Army’s ferrying command was using the airport as a refueling and repair facility for military aircraft and for pilot training.

Airport manager Don Swenson revealed that on busy days airplanes landed or took off every three minutes at the Rochester Airport.

"Lens on History” is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.

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