The ice cream may be the draw but the airport is the entertainment at Latham's Control Tower
LATHAM Aviators are always around the Control Tower, the summer restaurant and ice cream place on Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham.
There are the sparrows, whose flight missions are to locate bits of bread and french fry and then get back into the air.
People who visit the Control Tower are on the lookout for larger and longer wings. Close proximity to Albany County Airport means diners get a front-row view of planes approaching or leaving the airport.
Small airplanes fly close enough to let spectators read registration numbers. Commercial jets, like red and blue transports from Southwest Airlines, soar toward runways with a majestic rush of grace and power.
The restaurant has been open since 1999, and miniature golf, batting cages and go carts are part of the complex. People come for strawberry shortcake sundaes and cheeseburgers, but fly-overs by Southwest airliners and others are equally popular.
Like when a white Delta with a bright red tail wing zoomed past on a recent evening.
“There’s a big one, bud,” said Rob Newton of Latham, watching the skies with son Max, 4.
Max was silent in his observation. “It was loud,” he said, after the landing was complete.
Restaurant personnel say big crowds generally come during the evening. When the runways are lit with bright blue lights, they look spectacular.
Kristy Mantei of Albany brought her family, daughter Ava, 8, and son Rocco, 6, got cups of red candy-topped ice cream. Son Christian, 8 months, would have to wait for his first taste.
“How are we supposed to see planes from here?” asked Rocco, a new Control Tower customer.
“Turn around and look,” answered his mom. “There’s the airport.”
Mantei said the visit was for both refreshment and excitement. “We drive by the airport all the time,” she said. “We try to see the planes but we always miss them.”
Christian didn’t know what he was missing.
“Not a very fun trip for him,” Mantei said. “He’s not getting any ice cream. He might like the noise from the planes — you never know.”
More families visited on the warm, early summer weeknight. Kids in softball uniforms were also up for cones, but some decided to ground the plane vigil and launch aerials at the batting cages. Some teens watched the airport for a while — where planes heading south roared and rolled down the runway — and then picked up putters for miniature golf.
Jeff Colena, 13, of Oxford, Mass., and his brother Leo, 9, watched for planes over plates of french fries. Mom Carol Colena and grandmother Sherry Freedman were also along for the expedition.
“We started coming when they were much younger,” said Freedman, who lives in Colonie. “The planes were the reason we started coming.”
“And the food is good,” added Jeff Colena.
Better than airplane food?
“I don’t know,” answered the plane watcher. “I’ve never been in first class.”