ATC IssuesA place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.
My first radar validation, on the 424, was in early 1970. Despite its quirks we used it to its “maximum” . At the board I was asked how many aircraft I would control at a time, I replied “one”, the examiner just grinned! It was always suggested that our “tels guys” altered the waveguide a little!
We often operated as a twosome , as we did with the later 430 ( we were one of the first civil users of that, it came to us with no map overlay, our engineers invented one) .
One controller vectoring on the left and on the right the half mile SRA tube. In between was the control panel with tilt switch and tuners. You’ve probably guessed the unit, about a mile and a half west there was a ridge by the M1 motorway producing a very noticeable collection of PEs.
I can remember pushing the tilt down while in the left hand seat to see inbound traffic for vectoring and receiving a very bruised right hand as the controller on the right was trying to tilt up to see his blip pass the PEs at about a mile and a half on 08. Also that was where invariably there was a marked change in drift! Good memories and always a satisfaction of completing many many “ half milers” in marginal conditions JB
Last edited by oldandbald; 16th Feb 2012 at 21:22.
I probably have piccies somewhere that could identify the date of the LBA ACR 430 installation. My guess would be very early 70's. I was the Airport Ops Officer at the time. Plessey undertook the actual installation but underestimated the unpredictability of LBA. The radar head was destined for the centre of the airfield near to the 424 slte, but the first mobile crane that tried to transport it simply sank as soon as it left runway 28. The contractor brought in a larger crane, which managed to move only a little further before also bogging down. We then arranged for several loads of hardcore to be deposited on the track and rolled it in. The contractor brought in the largest crane available and the ACR430 eventually reached it's destination. I am certain to have piccies of this performance but have reached the stage of life where I have no idea where I put my glasses a few minutes since, let alone the location of photographs taken some 40 years ago !
Gordon, you'll not be surprised to hear that LBA is still a swamp in certain locations. A few years ago after a spell of torrential rain there was a river crossing the 32 threshold which had its source on Horsforth Golf Course. I don't recall anything landing that evening.
I assume the 430 was a brand new installation then. I was always under the impression that it had been purchased second-hand from Luton but I confess I don't know where I got that idea. The installation farce sounds like a Keystone Cops scenario. These days there'd be risk assessments, hard hats, hi viz, clipboards and so on in order to prevent all that nonsense, not to mention all the fun.
What made LBA choose the 430 over, say,the Marconi 264 ? I guess the 424 was proving not too satisfactory for general surveillance but ok for SRAs. Thinking about the soft ground at LBA, the 264 radar head could well have sunk altogether
We had the 430 at Luton into the mid 80s but finally the scanner and associated electronics caught fire, not sure of the exact date, and it "ceased to be". At that time the 08 ILS was being installed so it obviously felt unwanted.....
Luton didn't have a Watchman, they had (and I believe it's still there) an ex RAF AR15, which apparently won't interface with the display system at LTCC so it's still as they left it when they moved radar to Terminal Control. Wonder what became of the AR15 which used to be mounted on the control tower at Dunsfold.
Realising early the shortcomings of the 430 Luton investigated a "proper" surveillance radar in the mid 70s. We became an early civil purchaser of the AR15. The RAF had experienced coverage problems with the AR15 which I think were down to their own siting decisions, we left our siting to Plessey.It was marketed as a superior AR1. I think it became operational about 1977 with SSR feed from Heathrow ( we had SSR before Gatwick ) I consider the whole package very good for its time, excellently maintained by our Tels staff. JB
I stand corrected; someone told me when we were starting LARS North that the Luton AR15 couldn't be used (would have been perfect) but they thought it was ex-RAF. Couldn't have been RB could it? I know the Dunsfold one was ex Brize, (maybe that's where I'm getting confused) There was some sort of 'scandal' about it too; apparently bits were 'missing' when the packing cases were opened at Dunsfold and they had been there when it was packed at Brize.
Yes, the Luton AR15 was new. I held the first (might have been the second) UK AR15 validation. Before that we had a temporary Cossor 787, scanner mounted on a truck, display in the radar room in the old control tower. I validated that too.
The ACR430 melted down (literary, the box of tricks below the scanner) a few months after Chernobyl. I am not sure if there was a connection.
Numerous RAF airfields had the ACR7(424). Lindholme was one, possibly as late as 1972, Topcliffe was another; I saw one there in '71. RAE Bedford had one too, maybe also A & AEE Boscombe Down but Farnborough didn't.
Location: On a foreign shore trying a new wine diet. So far, I've lost 3days!
Southampton had one in the eighties. Don't know when they bought it but they advertised in Flight, as you do, to buy one in 1965 along with an ILS(see small ad top left under ground equipment).
Some other interesting ads also. Anyone fancy becoming an ATCO, max salary up to £2,036, and if you have previous aircrew or ATCO experience the Min of Aviation would consider you for training up to 40 years of age.
I would have quite fancied replying to the ad for a co-pilot wanted for round trip to Cape Town in well equipped light aircraft.
Southampton bought their 424 new. Spent many happy hours doing 150 exercises before taking my radar rating. Said goodbye to it in 1971 only to find it still going (albeit with new displays) when I came back to the UK in 1987.
Finally withdrawn early nineties when the ILS came into service. Nobody wanted what was left, believe that the displays went for a song to Westlands at Yeovil.