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ATC History

Old 2nd Apr 2009, 18:42
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ATC History

Hello

I'm interested in the history of air traffic control in the UK, and was wondering, when did London Airways (or London Control) start using radar?

From information I have managed to find so far, I notice that during the 1950s Gatwick had radar (Director) but seemed to have only procedural approach until the aircraft was past Mayfield VOR. Also, in a recording of Heathrow ATC in 1975, I noticed that Director asked all arrivals to squawk ident, which seems to suggest that they were coming from a non-radar controller.

If anyone has any info on this I would be interested to hear about it.

Thanks

Callum

Ps - just one more question while I think of it - I see in the early days Gatwick had PAR approach but this was replaced by the SRA approach, does the Gatwick Director at Swanwick have a special radar mode for this, only I did not see it when I was there?
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 22:16
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London Radar from Flight, Feb. 1950
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 22:25
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More important, where was the first pub that controllers frequented after shift, at least hopefully after shift.

There used to be a hangout for SOCAL controllers withi sight of the facility. Bulldozed, think its a used car lot now.
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Old 2nd Apr 2009, 23:23
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The Maggies WC?
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 06:50
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Callum. In the early days of Gatwick and London Approach the procedural, or Approach, controller would descend aircraft in the holds and often issue instructions to leave the hold. The No 1 Director would then descend the aircraft and once it was clear of other traffic he would hand it to the No 2 Director for pistioning on to the ILS.

PAR was used for talk-down before the days of ILS. When ILS first came into service it was not as accurate as nowadays so PAR was used to monitor all approaches in poor visibility. As ILS became more reliable, PAR was withdrawn from most civil airfields - the Heathrow PAR went in the mid-70s i recall. No PAR equipment existed at West Drayton and does not at Swanwick. At Swanwick and most major ATC units SRAs are carried out using the same radar as used for sequencing. Some airfields do have older, dedicated, SRA radar equipment.

I was at Heathrow in 1975 and I don't understand why yoiu should think that only a procedural controller would ask an aircraft to squawk ident? That is a radar function and only a radar controller would issue that instruction. "Director" is a 100% radar control function.

London Airways - the procedural element - was the "executive" controller who used London Radar so expedite traffic as needed. Later, the control service became wholly radar and all controllers now exercise the radar and procedural aspects.

Shout if you want more info. Some people on here go back a long way.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:08
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I was at Heathrow in 1975 and I don't understand why yoiu should think that only a procedural controller would ask an aircraft to squawk ident? That is a radar function and only a radar controller would issue that instruction. "Director" is a 100% radar control function
I think what he means is that the aircraft came to 'Director' from a non-radar unit, after which 'director' asks them to squawk ident...
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 08:56
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In 1975 probably only 76 codes, so unless a handover given,no Identification?
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 09:05
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Sorry for the misunderstanding. By the end of 1972 LATCC and Heathrow had full 4096 codes, but not callsign conversion. We did not therefore need to identify inbound traffic off airways, but obviously needed to ID npn-airways traffic and any Brecon departures off 09R, which London Approach worked..
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 10:18
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Shouldn`t that be 64 codes?

(anyway, having spent the first 8 years of my atco life with primary only (Marconi 264), I regard SSR as being the invention of the devil....secondary will never catch on, mark my words!)

The pub I remember was "The Three Magpies" on the Bath Road, somewhere near Black and Dekker Corner if memory serves.

Last edited by Loki; 3rd Apr 2009 at 11:25.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 10:32
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SSR was introduced to a small number of UK Area units in June, 1963 and arrived at Heathrow in the late 60s. Initially, responses were two slashes with a third for "ident". Carriage of 4096 code transponders became mandatory in the UK above FL100 in CAS in January, 1972. Radars at West Drayton were always able to display the four-figure codes plus height readout from the time the radar controllers moved there. First and second digits indicated route and the last two for individual aircraft.
(Info from the book Heathrow ATC - the First 50 Years).

All I can say is "Thank God" as I would never have validated without SSR. One watch at Heathrow viewed SSR as black magic and always switched it off!
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 10:48
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right of course, 64 codes. Was thinking about something else.

Radar was still on North Side when I was there. Must have moved in 1969, whilst I was sunning myself at Sopley learing to listen two two frequencies(wearing 2 headsets, answer the phone and write on the board at the same time, an ATCA 2's life was never boring) Only 64 codes there
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 11:22
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This could turn into an interesting thread - pity Arnold Field isn't still about..
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 17:59
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Thanks everyone - the article from Flight magazine in 1950 was very interesting. Thank you for your explanation HEATHROW DIRECTOR and can you just clarify the purpose of the executive controller - what part of the airways in particular did they control and what parts did London Radar control?

Also, would you recommend the book Heathrow ATC: The First 50 Years?

Regards

Callum
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 18:04
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Also, would you recommend the book Heathrow ATC: The First 50 Years?
Excellent book- the most comprehensive account of the history of Heathrow ATC you will find.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 18:19
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callum91.. Back in the early days, Airways control throughout the UK was in the hands of Air Traffic Controllers grade 2 (ATCOII). They were the executive "D" Controllers (don't ask me what the D meant - maybe "decisions?). They basically did the controlling but were backed up by ATCOIII controllers on radar. If a traffic situation could not be resolved procedurally, the radar man was called upon to sort out the situation and then hand back to the D controller when it was resolved. (I worked this system when I was abroad for several years. I was a D man with radar backup). I don't know the extent of UK radar cover in those days, but guess it would have covered most of the airways.

Apologies in advance if any of the above is not quite accurate; there are some ATCOs on here from those days who might able to correct things - my brain tends to hurt nowadays..
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 18:54
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HD - in those days did FPS stand fopr Flight Progress Slate??
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 18:54
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Thank you - that makes sense! I'll look for somewhere to buy that book from now - thanks.
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 18:59
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anotherthing - exactly and we were issued with steel scribers too! Must say it all looked a lot better when we got paper strips and Letraset to enter the details!
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 20:55
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I wonder how many of the current breed of ATCOs view multi-lateration and ADS-B as black magic and would prefer it not to be there?
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Old 3rd Apr 2009, 21:11
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That's too complicated for me.
Anybody else remember the metal strip holders on the North Side?
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