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.
I know this has nothing to do with radar but anyway... are there any ATC units in the UK still using solid-state voice switching systems for their RT and phone lines ? I know several NATS and non-NATS units have installed the likes of Schmid and Frequentis VCCS to replace the traditional push button and PO style key and lamp units. Are any of these still out there ? I hope so. I've just bought an old key and lamp unit on ebay and it's a beautiful piece of equipment. Solidly built, simple design and tough, reliable switches that absolutely do the job. Typical British PO engineering and difficult to beat
By the way, Gordon Dennison. Please check your PMs. Thankyou.
Thankyou for your replies Tigersaw and rodan. Tigersaw, it sounds like you had some bad experiences with the old gear. Rodan, is there anything in particular about the touchscreens that you prefer ? Ta.
I was RAF Engineer from 1982, with love-hate relationships of AR-1, SLA-3B, SLA-3B, CR-62, Watchman (all both fixed and mobiles), AR-15, ACR-430 and a host of radio's, displays, voice-switches, GRN-9D and TRN-26 Tacans, CADF, DRDF, BILS, DN811, as well as telephones and a host of other 'stuff'.
You didn't work on the SLA1 then? We still had one at Farnborough in '82, replaced by a CR62 in about '83, we never had an SLA3 of any mark although we were supposed to get the one from Pershore, it was delivered but then it was given to Bedford instead. Then when I did my PAR course at Shawbury in '84, I was trained on the SLA3 sims when I would never use it in anger apart from live traffic in Shawbury Tower.
Just spend a while reading this thread, very informative, thanks.
I have no ATC connections as such, I wanted to go into RAF radio and radar but failed the eyesight medical being a short sighted and now old bat.
However I have had several visits to ATC units in the past and always enjoyed them.
My first visit was to West Drayton when then had the radar IIRC at Sopley. Thats when I found out not all ATC was radar. Can't remember the date but at least 40-45 years ago. I later visited the same location when the various radar suites were in service. Both great visits and I sure they had to shoe horn me out with force!
I also had visits to various RAF ATC units as an Air Cadet member of staff. One to Wyton's PAR was very interesting. Even I could see that the Vitor on the PAR was rubbish. Got told it was the Station Commander earning his flying pay for the year and was very rusty.
The most interesting visit was to RAF Neatishead about 6 months before they moved to a new control room. They allowed myself and my friend to sit by and watch two controllers on a night exercise. I was surprised how old the equipment was, primary display only but SSR available 4 times a minute via a tracker ball input, press the button and wait for the code to display on a panel.
Yep even at 60 you could put me in front of a display and I'll be happy for hours. Never did manage Swanwick but with the conditions after 9/11 etc I doubt if could get in anyway.
I've never had the privilege of working in ATC but I've managed to work at EGNM for nudging 17 years so that's something I suppose. The newer radars and comms system all look fancy and doubtless provide more facilities to the user. That said, I still prefer the older clunky BRITISH stuff.
Mooncrest: NATS Services Ltd. supply ATS staff to airfields. The operator of the airfield provides the radar and other hardware, but they often have a contract with NATS Engineering Ltd to supply the equipment, hence although many airfields have replaced Watchman with ASR10 (in my opinion a retrograde step) some still use Watchman or whatever else the airport operator chooses to use.
ASR10 is a totally processed radar which suffers from track jitter. I can see it's suitable for some airfields inside controlled airspace where you rarely need track accuracy or need to do SRA's, but the Watchman had better data presentation due to it's analogue type display, plus if necessary, you could cancel the AMTI and 'see' raw radar whereas the ASR10 signal is sent from the radar head to ATC in processed form. Also with Watchman, the track history was in the form of a tail formed from the afterglow of previous blips, with ASR10 it's formed by electronic trail dots which don't give you the same information.
Thanks for your replies folks. Reading between the lines it seems the ideal approach primary radar is raw from the point of collection, i.e. the radar head and is processed when it reaches the controller at whereupon it can be viewed raw or with bells and whistles. Speaking an an ATC layman I suppose this level of automation and presentation takes the controlling out of controlling, to some extent. I wonder how the introduction of the ASR10 has gone down with controllers as a whole ? Is it popular or not and what do the engineers make of it
Interesting to note the siting of the ASR10 at Manchester. The Watchman was over on the southside before the second runway was built, as I recall. I remember the Marconi 264 somewhere near the then RW24 threshold.
<<Speaking an an ATC layman I suppose this level of automation and presentation takes the controlling out of controlling, to some extent.>>
Not at all because radar simply provides a picture of what is happening, whether it is raw or processed. OK, modern radar displays have bells and whistles, most of which are not needed, but they don't change the controlling task.
chevvron, Don't forget that although the original Watchman had Plessey analogue displays, the RAF (and maybe others) replaced these consoles about ten years ago with FR digital displays working through a Windows-type processor. No afterglow, just computer-generated trail dots. So the basic primary radar was a Watchman, but it was viewed through a much-updated type of display from a different manufacturer.
We had an FR rasterscan display hooked up to the Watchman installed in the old tower at Farnborough for about 6 months before we moved out, and it displayed the ordinary primary returns rather than electronic ones. The TFT based ATM was also hooked up to the Watchman, prior to being moved to the new tower. Maybe it's only the NATS installed ones which have fully processed Watchman, although I'm aware the Anglia Radar displays which displayed the Cromer Watchman at Stansted were fully processed analogue displays.