Going to See the Wizard is what we call it when you get the opportunity to take a tour of the Flight Control Tower here at the Air Field. Some friends and I were lucky enough to have a connection, giving us access to the tower. We met up with Dave, a former Navy Air Traffic Controller who now works as the supervisor of the Control Tower here at KAF. He was a very nice, older man, who obviously enjoys being a tour guide in addition to his current job.
To access the control room of the seven story tower, you have to climb up 14 flights of stairs because there is no elevator, only a utility hoist up to the top. We definitely got our workout! The building of the tower was funded by NATO and was just completed the end of March. Prior to this, the tower was essentially a shack, one-quarter of the size of the new tower with several blind spots. The new tower provides for better visibility and operational control.
The tower is staffed 24/7 by 3-4 staff members employed by ATC Midwest, a company contracted by NATO. One person is assigned to Ground Control, one is assigned to Air Traffic Control and the third person is responsible for administrative tasks and paperwork.
While we were up in the tower, we were able to see a C-130 take off, several helicopters practicing take-offs and landings and two RAF Tornados (British jets) take off. I went out on the cat-walk outside to watch the jets take off and they are so loud that you can feel your lungs rattle inside your body. I will miss the sound of the jets when I leave KAF; no matter how many times I have heard it and watched those jets take off, it is still exciting each and every time! And there is no where in the states that a civilian person can be that close to a jet taking off.
The visibility was so good that we could see all of the mountain ranges on all side so of KAF, even the ones in Pakistan. We could also see outside of the base into Kandahar city. I took a picture of the mosque that is just on the other side of the wall. This was a really great experience and I am grateful to the Midwest staff members for allowing us to temporarily intrude on their world.