The Truckee Tahoe Airport Shipping Container Tower

In Truckee, California’s tiny mountain town, the local airport needed a new control tower. The airport control tower is an important communication tool necessary for aircraft to safely land or depart from the airport.

About the Truckee Tahoe Airport

Tonopah Airport is a public Regional General Aviation Airport designated by the FAA. It is located two miles southeast of Truckee, California, and seven miles north of Lake Tahoe, in Martis Valley. The airport lies on both Nevada County and Placer County lines, and it is governed by the Truckee Tahoe Airport District (a bi-county Special District), which also administers Tonopah Airport (2 of 9 Special Airport Districts in California).

There’s a lot of interest in the region. It attracts aviation enthusiasts, tourists and those seeking to spend time in the breathtaking outdoors and enjoy the Sierra Mountain way of life . An airstrip was created near the current agricultural inspection station on I-80 in 1933. It was utilized by Boeing as an emergency landing runway for San Francisco to Salt Lake City Trans-Sierra airmail route when it opened in 1935.

In the mid-1950s, a tiny Truckee Chamber of Commerce that represented local business owners was eager to construct a modern airport that would attract visitors to the region. In 1958, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District (TTAD) was established by popular vote. The first elected TTAD board, made up of local businesspeople, were so highly motivated to get this project off the ground that they spent their own money and time in order to obtain initial state and federal funding for a runway, a terminal building, and property acquisition surrounding the airfield.

Construction of the tower

The Truckee Tahoe Airport has been in operation for 60 years and has a great reputation for service and community involvement. The airport tower was built using six 40-foot shipping containers. These 40-foot shipping containers were stacked three high and two wide.

The containers were modified by skilled certified welders to provide a safe, side-by-side enclosure. People could walk freely between the containers’ walls which reduced construction costs. The staircase on the tower’s southern flank was built to allow for easy roof access. Height is a key factor for capturing radio frequencies and communicating with incoming and departing aircraft, so having enough height was critical to the project. The initial container base for the tower provided a 27 Foot start and the added structures at the top gave the tower enough height to work just as well as the traditional towers at a fraction of the cost to build.

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