View Full Version : Control Towers In The Uk
12th Nov 2009, 09:24
Many British civil airfields have gained new towers in the last ten years or so. Newcastle's and Edinburgh's are similar and recent, Bristol's is fairly new as is Heathrow's and the ones at East Midlands, Stansted and Luton are around ten years old (correct me if I'm wrong). However, some are rather older and still in everyday use, Leeds Bradford (41 years) and Teesside (probably even longer) being two examples. Manchester Barton is an antique.
Do architects have a specific lifespan in mind when designing towers these days or are they just expected to keep going indefinitely, subject to upgrades and maintenance ?
I feel the tower at EGNM may have to be replaced before too long but I'd hate that to happen as it so distinctive !
12th Nov 2009, 09:51
EGJJ have just got there new tower. Not sure if they are in or not though. There old one is still standing but must be older the 40 years old. I guess you make it last as long as you can unless your made of money.
12th Nov 2009, 10:50
I would imagine that from an architectural point of view most towers are, like the majority of other buildings, designed to stand indefinitely. Generally new towers are constructed not because of any structural issue with the previous buildings but because the progression of technology and expansion of airport operations has rendered it necessary. Heathrow is a good example, I don't think there are any structural issues with the old tower (the building is still in use) but the expansion of the airport's operations led to the necessity of the development of the new tower.
Yes, EGJJ have a new tower and approach centre (after about 3 years of delay) but have not yet moved in. The existing tower/approach room is filled with asbestos and leaks and is also beyond economic repair. The move to the new building is supposed to be March 2010 but a firm date has yet to be set.
12th Nov 2009, 14:21
Cranfield tower was built in 1959 I believe & it certainly feels like it (& looks it too). Its one of them structures as you drive toward it you either love the eccentricity of it or you loath it with a vengance.
I'm more the latter. Its cold in the winter, slightly damp, dirty, falls apart at regular intervals and has blind spots - not to mention the stairs of death at the back where the only thing stopping plummetting off the roof is a sheet of glass... exciting eh!
Now the airfield has grown up and things have moved and become defunct (main runways etc) its' now in the wrong place - nowhere near the centre of the runway and with limited visibilty of the local area.
Good website for reference (although nothing to do with me) is:
12th Nov 2009, 15:08
EGSS 'new' tower went operational on 16th February 1996.
12th Nov 2009, 17:15
Wonder what it'll be like in the wind this weekend in that monstrosity near Hounslow?
12th Nov 2009, 18:02
Wonder what it'll be like in the wind this weekend in that monstrosity near Hounslow?
Can i assume you are referring to the new Heathrow tower here Bren? I have to say I much preferred the old one, it was much more aesthetically pleasing on the eye and in keeping with Heathrow's nostalgia. The only saving grace is that it still stands to this day as I believe they cant demolish it.:)
12th Nov 2009, 18:08
Aye - that ponced-up ice-cream cornet!! I'm not so sure about the old tower's future but I'm glad I spent my time there. Even that used to rattle around a bit in 70 kt winds! I'd be terrified beyond belief in the new one.
12th Nov 2009, 18:39
Anybody know what future beholds the old Heathrow CTB?
12th Nov 2009, 19:13
I'd be terrified beyond belief in the new one.
Yes i think I'll join you on that one! It just looks abit too flimsy for me- this tall, thin concrete tube with a great big glass cup sat on the top!! The steel supports anchored into the ground obviously provide a degree of reassurance but I certainly wouldnt want to be inside it swaying around in a 70KT gust!!
12th Nov 2009, 20:14
this tall, thin concrete tube with a great big glass cup sat on the topSteel tube.
12th Nov 2009, 20:33
Ronaldsway is still operating in acontrol tower from the last war. However, a new one is shortly to be completed, to be operational next year. Is the current one the oldest still operational at a 'commercial' aerodrome?
12th Nov 2009, 21:28
Bournemouths must be of a wartime vintage as well.
13th Nov 2009, 08:47
The central core of Bournemouth's was built by the RAF in 1943, the VCR added in the 50's and the other extensions in the early 1960's. Although pretty grotty from the outside is has been updated (err...in parts) on the inside.It was, by the way, identical to the Ibsley control tower which still stands, albeit as a skeletal concrete shell.
13th Nov 2009, 10:15
HD: It's actually a huge patio heater.
13th Nov 2009, 12:27
Bournemouth and Blackpool superficially share a similar design of tower. Ex-MOD I expect. The old VCR at Edinburgh was much the same design as well if I remember rightly. The age of some of these buildings makes me wonder how much longer they can go on. Maybe new towers are exclusively for busy commercial airports with lots of pax (and money) these days.
Good to see IOM and JER getting new homes. I fear if LBA were to get a fancy new, tall structure, it would have its head in the clouds a lot of the time. And then, there's where to put it.
How does Teesside get on ? The tower there sits among a jumble of buildings and isn't the tallest. Are there any "visual considerations" I wonder ?
13th Nov 2009, 12:32
<<HD: It's actually a huge patio heater.>>
Love it, T!!!!!
13th Nov 2009, 12:52
Bournemouth's tower is basically the Air Ministry Works Dept design/drawing number 518/40, as is Hawarden's, Carlisle's and probably Blackpool's. There are quite a few other towers of wartime vintage still in use, some in the Highlands and Islands. As far as operational military ones go, Cosford's is the oldest. Built 1938/39-ish.
Skipness One Echo
13th Nov 2009, 13:00
I think Glasgow's is certainly as old as the "new" Abbotsinch airport development, dating it to at least 1966, whereas Prestwick's is I believe a 1955 build or thereabouts?
Was the old tower at EDI demolished? I know the old LGW one is still there. What are they used as now?
13th Nov 2009, 13:44
Unless they've built a new one since I did my ADC/GMC endorsement in 1972, the present Glasgow Tower is the original one from RNAS Abbotsinch; with a new roof (at least once )!!
13th Nov 2009, 14:18
Teesside i believe make judicious use of CCTV to view those "hard to see" areas. Also the tower complex there dates back to the 40's, although may have been updated when MME (or Middleton St George as was) became a lightning / V-force dispersal field. Interestingly enough, you can (or could as of the early 2000's) still see the ground connections on the V-bomber Runway Readiness apron at the end of the runway. These had a direct, secure phone line to the Bomber controller for use in case of war.
Cranfield has a great tower, was nice and warm and welcoming on a snowy day two years ago when a CPL nav trip went wrong due to snow.
Aren't all MoD airfield buildings designed to a common set of plans, which evolves over time?
The tower at ABZ is, aesthetically, a horrible monstrosity, like some sort of concrete Mayan temple. Will it come down in 2012? Is there any access to the Balconys for controllers with a spotting hobby?
Finally, I can't say for Heathrow, but the Post Office Tower in London is apparantly good up to 170kt winds. I would imagine that the Heathrow tower is certified up to a similar standard (even if it will get a bit... sway-ey)
(p.s. apologies for the scattergun approach - haven't had much sleep recently!)
13th Nov 2009, 14:20
Yeah, we have access to the balconies at ABZ, very pleasant during the summer for breaks :ok:
13th Nov 2009, 14:34
Luton tower has (or at least had) a warning system to advise when it was swaying too much in the wind; a part filled milk bottle on the window sill; if it overflowed, get out!!
14th Nov 2009, 08:33
I believe the term for the design of Aberdeen Tower is a 'Ziggurat'.
The 'tower' where I provide ATC is a small ten feet cubic box with a radar bolted on top. It is known locally as 'The Tardis'.
14th Nov 2009, 08:43
.........and ISTR the escape options for the new Heathrow CTB at the time of design were:
1. Special high-speed lift.
2. Flash Gordon type shuttle capsule on a guy-wire.
3. Individual inertia-reel escape harnesses which were to stop 6' from the concrete.
Sadly I got flushed out of the old CTB across the M4 by the 'Thames Flood' of July 2003 and never got to experience the wonders of the new CTB. Maybe someone could fix it for HD and me....
EGPF building does indeed date from HMS Sanderling days so is at least 1940s vintage. It has been revamped and the radar suite added on the ground floor but the VCR is the original. EGPK's 'new' tower building was constructed in early 60s and became operational in , I believe, 1964 when the parallel taxiway, runway extension and new terminal were opened. The previous one was a 'greenhouse' on top of Orangefield House Hotel which was demolished to allow construction of the said taxiway.
Goodness - I is getting auld!
14th Nov 2009, 16:26
Minor nitpick. EGPD tower is a "Staggered Ziggurat." The original ziggurats being ancient babylonian stepped pyramids. Rumour at the time of its construction was that it would also be a stepped pyramid shape until someone noticed that it would infringe the runway sideslopes, hence the stagger.
14th Nov 2009, 16:44
Talkdown, PM me if you want to have a look.:ok:
HD et al... You could definitely feel the gusts of 50+ knots in the new tower yesterday. Standing up or sitting down didnt make much difference either, pretty sure Gonzo will second that thought.
Still, rather be inside than cleaning the windows :}
15th Nov 2009, 13:06
AJ7, maybe you'd been on the disaronno / strongbow mix again......
At PD, as glamdring says, the balconies are great for breaks in the summer, every "stagger" is effectively a balcony all the way round, with aircraft 360 degrees around too. The staggers also catch enough snow to make snowmen that can be rolled to a position outside the "red floor" offices :O
15th Nov 2009, 14:02
AJ7.. Sounds dead scary. And no BBQs up there either!!!!
15th Nov 2009, 15:14
Interesting comments about the tower at Cranfield....ah happy days!
The description of the very steep spiral staircase at the rear of the VCR are true. They were so steep I had to carry my dog down after each stint in the seat! Going up was fine, he just froze at the top when it was time to go down the 'Dak for refreshments.
15th Nov 2009, 15:24
RD.. Did you know Lee Grant or Sid Young perchance?
Heard the stories of Saturday afternoon barbeques in previous times, wouldnt have fancied one yesterday though!
simfly, i might have had a tonic having gotten home and finished the cycle, that mix mentioned wasn't on the list though ;)
At least we werent hit by lightning yesterday...
15th Nov 2009, 18:06
You had to be very versatile back in the old days.. Here I am combining the tasks of Approach Supervisor and Head Chef:
Bren-chef.jpg :: Aviation Pics :: Fotopic.Net (http://brendan-mccartney.fotopic.net/p62115410.html)
15th Nov 2009, 18:18
HD, I hope that you had a 'hot-work permit'........
Or were you 'Chef De Quart'?
15th Nov 2009, 20:29
Not while the train was standing in the station.
On the whole question of control towers, there is a very interesting site here:
UK Control Tower & airfield photographs of WW2 (http://www.controltowers.co.uk/)
I tried to submit several piccies to the site but received no response but the stuff on there is quite interesting.
27th Jan 2011, 09:19
Slight thread drift here folks so please bear with me. EGNM/LBA seems (from my point of view anyway) to be having a little trouble with the radar frequency, 125.575. This frequency was adopted during the summer to replace 123.75 and since that time the old ground-plane TX aerials on the roof of the tower have also been replaced. I'd expect the latter as the aerials are specifically made for individual frequencies. However, reception quality has definitely deteriorated. On a couple of occasions recently, 125.575 has been NOTAMed as U/S for work in progress with no noticeable improvement afterwards. On some days, reception is reasonably good. On others, there is a lot of white noise accompanying each transmission and the signal barely breaks through the squelch. The tower frequency, 120.3, is received far more strongly which doesn't make sense to me as it uses a lower power transmitter than 125.575. Also the standby radar frequency, 133.125, far "out-receives" 125.575.
For info, I use at home an ICOM desktop receiver with a loft mounted dipole aerial. I don't know if there if have been any pilot reports about questionable reception.
Anyone have any clues as to what the problem may be ? Ta.
27th Jan 2011, 11:35
Same here - I once had to carry my first Doberman down the stairs from the LL VCR.
Did my back a world of good:hmm:
27th Jan 2011, 11:42
In my past life as I passed amongst you carbon-based lifeforms, I was a Greenham Common Commissioner. The GCC was a lively body, tasked with not wasting the then-newly-released GC airbase. The GCC was split 50/50ish between the folk like me who wanted to cautiously open up the resources, and the local residents, who regarded it as an extension of their own back gardens, and wanted the hoipolloi kept firmly away. (Hoipolloi roughly translates to 'not one of us')
I put forward a proposal to do a minimal refurb on the old Tower and turn it into a Visitors Centre showing the entire history of the Base. The sons and daughters of ex-USAF personnel had been known to take a keen interest in such projects; call me non-modest, but it seemed a better idea than just letting it rot.
Needless to say, the worthy rezzies shot the idea down; shame, really, anyone know if its been demolished yet?
27th Jan 2011, 11:52
My place of work for 28 years, the 'old'* tower at Farnborough, had it's VCR knocked off 2 weeks after we moved to the new tower in Nov 2002 and the rest was demolished after about 3 months.
To me, it looks like the design of the new Farnborough tower was also used for the new Edinburgh tower.
*Built 1945/6 it was actually the third ATC facility at Farnborough
Barnaby the Bear
27th Jan 2011, 18:54
Southend's existing tower was built as a temporary structure around 60 years ago. New tower due to enter service within weeks.
Southend Airport Railway Station - Class 321 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinkplunger/4760008334/)
Arrico Roofing & Cladding | Projects (http://www.arrico.com/projects/southend_control_tower/)
28th Jan 2011, 07:06
Mick.... Greenham Tower is still there, as you probably know. Even still has various aerials on it. However, all the windows are boarded up so not much is happening. I guess they're nervous about the local yobbo populace.. Nice place to sit and have lunch tho'.
28th Jan 2011, 09:47
Bren, thanks for the info.
Ive only spent a total of 9 days in the UK since 2006 and visiting GC wasn't on the agenda.....
Shame the twr's not been used for something or other, I suppose the hope is - as so often - if they do nothing it'll eventually need to be pulled down on H&S grounds - at which point, they say 'no problem any more'.