Article by: Jim Thompson

For the full story visit: Walton Sun

DESTIN — “November 1429J is cleared for takeoff.”

With those five words on Wednesday morning, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Leroy J. Manor signaled the official opening of the new control tower at Destin Executive Airport, which is named in his honor. Manor, 96, began his career as a P-47 fighter pilot in World War II, and also flew during the Vietnam War.

Six stories below Manor and a few hundred yards down an airport runway, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley, chairman of the Okaloosa County Airport Board, responded with “29 Juliet, on the roll.”

A few seconds later, Wooley and a passenger in his single-engine airplane, Okaloosa County Commission Chairman Carolyn Ketchel, passed in front of the tower.

“Congratulations, General Manor,” Wooley said as the plane rose into Wednesday morning’s clear blue sky.

The operational opening of the tower came nearly a year after the structure itself was dedicated to Manor in a January celebration.

In the intervening months, a host of communications gear, weather equipment, telephone lines, digital fiber lines and other equipment were installed in the tower “cab,” where controllers are now supervising takeoffs and landings from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.

The tower and its equipment came at a price tag of almost $6 million, with the cost being shared almost equally between the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation, according to Chad Rogers, Destin Executive Airport’s general aviation manager.

The tower’s air traffic controllers are employed by Oklahoma-based Robinson Aviation as part of the FAA-funded “contract tower” program. Initially, they’ll be handling approximately 65,000 “operations” — takeoffs are considered a single operation, as are landings — each year, the current level of traffic at Destin Executive Airport, according to Tracy Stage, Okaloosa County’s airports director.