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.
Course I've encountered Lamson tubes; they were the things at Glasgow where the assistant could drop their pen, resulting in the system having to be dismantled to retrieve it. At Farnborough, we had its predecessor, the Lamson Hoist. This was a set of rigid vertical wires carrying a metal slider which had a clip on which you clipped FPS, weather reports etc. operated by pulling on a handle which, if you didn't pull hard enough when sending messages to the VCR, didn't engage its stop and fell down on your head. My overriding memory is of the test pilots of the then prototype Rockwell B1 paying us a visit; they couldn't believe the simplicity of the hoist and stood playing with it for hours!!
Wonderful Lamson tube system at Heathrow, with addressable collars read by some electromagnetic gismo which would change the "points" in the tubing, there being 4 or 5 possible addresses. Hours of fun sending tubes loaded with punchole confetti to the tower at very busy times....desktops covered with the stuff. System was maintained by two characters we called Tweedledee and Tweedledum who seemd to have a full time job clearing faults.
I think it was Derek Jenkins who told me a story about a cigar being put down a tube at Luton one Christmas.......
At Manch, several Lamson tubes came out of the ceiling to the FPRS assistants. It was occasionally referred to as The Steamship Enterprise. One of the VCR ATSA would often ask for a bag of crisps from the 4th floor goody-box. The crisps would be reduced to granules and sent up the pipe. Many supermarkets have modern 'Lamson' systems to take cash etc, from the checkout positions to the cash office.
Assistant at EGNX did the 'pen down the tube' thing in the late 60s and they nearly had to take the control tower building apart to find it.
Derek Jenkins..... now there's a name that brings back memories!!
Another place i worked was linked to the adjacent RAF Tower by Lamson Tube. RAF guy rang up one evening to scrounge some sugar.... which one of my colleagues helpfully tipped straight into the pipe without the tube. They also discovered that if you popped a boiled egg in the pipe, it went off like a bomb at the other end!
We never did discover the rightful owner of a pair of lady's briefs which arrived via the Lamson Tubes in Heathrow Flight Clearance one nightshift back in the late '60s. Happy Times! Now...back to the 424....
Location: On a foreign shore trying a new wine diet. So far, I've lost 3days!
Now...back to the 424....
But just before we do. The only other bit of Decca kit I've been privileged to play with was the Decca roller map. The forerunner to Tomtoms. Same principle, but way before it's time. Endless hours of entertainment in the Daventry hold listening to the "Light Programme" or was it the "Home Service" and watching the pen scrawl all over the roller map.
Zooker and others, thanks for the Mediator info. I just remember the then ATSM at EGNM a few years ago discussing the cost of telephone links with the Tels chief. He was saying something about "having the Mediator line to fall back on" if they couldn't allow a direct link.
As for the Decca 424, which is what this thread started with, I can't think of anything to else to say about it. It's certainly stirred up some strong feelings and reactgions in the ATC community. Thankyou everybody
Was it already mentioned Cambridge had one in the early 70s? Mooncrest; there's mediator and there's Mediator. Mediator (aka Mediocre)was the ATS system used at LATCC whilst a 'mediator line' was/is a line on the Air Traffic Operational Telephone Network (ATOTN), a dial up system still in use today but often set up at ATC units as 'speed dials' so you think they're direct lines when they're not.
I can remember reading a book about Humberside Airport. There was quite a detailed ATC section and it mentioned something about the presence of PBXs at six regional locations. So I guess this is where the Mediator lines all "met". I don't know if this is still the case. When the tower at EGNM had the old RDCE gear external phone lines were accessed using old BT-style Autodial consoles, basically grey plastic boxes with yellow buttons. Sadly long since cast in the skips !
I did 6 half milers (with an OJTI on the ACR430) today for helicopters 'cloud breaking' at Staverton into Cheltenham Races. First ones I've done for nearly 4 years due to medical issues! Some even had a passing acquaintance with the centre line! Our radar guys have been frantically busy this week, with over 50 SRA's done in the last 3 days...great fun! (and they all got in)
Reminds me of a Farnborough Air Show before the airfield became civil licenced. I was rostered on at 10am, weather was grotty (no ILS in those days) arrived, sat straight on the PAR (Cossor CR62) and did 14 talkdowns without a break.
I am a massive geek that regrets every day not applying to NATS (even managed to source a copy of David Graves UK ATC book that was getting rare to find at the time ready for my application - it just sits on my shelf reminding me about my failure to apply) and have to say I find threads like this fascinating for my little geekish brain. I have three questions that have been playing on my mind for years that I wonder about:
1) I understand primary and SSR radar and I know places like Gloucester/Southend (about to change?) use primary only radar and I know unless you have SSR and a Mode C readout you won't know the height of the target but is there some sort of limit based on the radar emitter power/beam angle (I take it approach radars are angled more towards the horizon compared to enroute?) that means that contacts above xx thousand feet are not going to show? Theres a scanner video on Youtube (search southend approach, talks about RIS so I know it is not new) where some contacts are reported "unknown high speed traffic...(range/bearing)...level unknown" - could this be just as likely to be an overflying flight at FL360 in the airways as much as it could be a fast moving military A/C or will the radar not pick up contacts that high being a non-enroute radar?
2) Say you have an airways leaver going to Gloucester or Oxford and they leave airway CAS and are given some sort of TS/DS outside CAS by swanwick, I understand that part of the radar processing uses some sort of 'height filters' in the enroute sector so it does not clutter the radar with people flying over the top (?) or below. Do these filters get turned off when providing a service outside CAS and you get all primary returns and non-filtered SSR traffic to advise/deconflict with the airways leaver?
3) Do you have to be a licenced airfield to provide radar? I thought you would but it looks like Lasham (from the start of this thread) has some sort of radar...is it just a case of getting permission from Ofcom or whoever to operate in that frequency range and away you go...I always thought to provide a radar service you had to provide an ATC service and to provide ATC you needed to be licenced or am I hopelessly wrong on this one aswell.
Thanks for any answers - they will just satisfy some curiosity going around my brain!
2) Swanwick don't provide ATC outside controlled airspace; Gloucester or Oxford inbounds might work Brize Radar on the rare occasions they open nowadays and I believe Oxford have their own radar now, so they may well cut out the middleman; certainly in the days I used to do Farnborough LARS, pilots preferred to stay with me even when I offered a handover to Brize.
Do you have to be a licenced airfield to provide radar?
No. It's not connected. Aerodrome licensing is to protect users of Public Transport. The ANO requires that, in the United Kingdom, most flights for the public transport of passengers take place at a licensed aerodrome, or at a Government aerodrome. See CAP168. ATC is not a pre-requisite. FISO and, under some circumstances, AGCS is adequate. For minimum facilities see CAP393 Section 3 Page 8.
it looks like Lasham ...has some sort of radar
Decca (latterly Plessey) 424 Approach Surveillance Primary Radar. It is a private facility operated by an aircraft maintenance and repair organisation for its own purposes (non-public transport) and is licensed by the CAA. Service provision includes Traffic Service and Surveillance Radar Approach provided by CAA-licensed ATCOs. The radar has a narrow pencil beam. Traffic detection is dependent on the manual positioning of the beam therefore it is not suitable for Deconfliction Service. (The radar aerial Polar Diagram would have to be cosecant-squared or similar to ensure 'solid cover' with the additional disadvantage of detection of high-level overflights.)
to provide a radar service you had to provide an ATC service and to provide ATC you needed to be licenced
Provision of a radar service outside CAS is part of what is known as ATSOCA (See CAP774). Where provided by civilian licensed ATCOs it is provided in accordance with CAP493 and is subject to CAA audit.