Unit History: Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Control
Air traffic control (ATC) is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and in the air. A controller’s primary task is to separate certain aircraft — to prevent them from coming too close to each other by use of lateral, vertical and longitudinal separation. Secondary tasks include ensuring safe, orderly and expeditious flow of traffic and providing information to pilots, such as weather, navigation information and NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen).
In many countries, ATC services are provided throughout the majority of airspace, and its services are available to all users (private, military, and commercial). When controllers are responsible for separating some or all aircraft, such airspace is called "controlled airspace" in contrast to "uncontrolled airspace" where aircraft may fly without the use of the air traffic control system. Depending on the type of flight and the class of airspace, ATC may issue instructions that pilots are required to follow, or merely flight information (in some countries known as advisories) to assist pilots operating in the airspace. In all cases, however, the pilot in command has final responsibility for the safety of the flight, and may deviate from ATC instructions in an emergency. To ensure communication, all pilots and all controllers everywhere are required to be able to speak and understand English. While they may use any compatible language, English must be used if requested. The native language for the region is normally used.
Airport control
The primary method of controlling the immediate airport environment is visual observation from the control tower. The tower is a tall, windowed structure located on the airport grounds. Aerodrome or Tower controllers are responsible for the separation and efficient movement of aircraft and vehicles operating on the taxiways and runways of the airport itself, and aircraft in the air near the airport, generally 2 to 5 nautical miles (3.7 to 9.2 km) depending on the airport procedures.
Radar displays are also available to controllers at some airports. Controllers may use a radar system called Secondary Surveillance Radar for airborne traffic approaching and departing. These displays include a map of the area, the position of various aircraft, and data tags that include aircraft identification, speed, heading, and other information described in local procedures.
The areas of responsibility for tower controllers fall into three general operational disciplines; Ground Control, Local or Air Control, and Clearance Delivery -- other categories, such as Apron Control or Ground Movement Planner, may exist at extremely busy airports. While each tower’s procedures will vary and while there may be multiple teams in larger towers that control multiple runways, the following provides a general concept of the delegation of responsibilities within the tower environment.
Ground Control
Ground Control (sometimes known as Ground Movement Control abbreviated to GMC or Surface Movement Control abbreviated to SMC) is responsible for the airport "maneuvering" areas, or areas not released to the airlines or other users. This generally includes all taxiways, holding areas, and some transitional aprons or intersections where aircraft arrive having vacated the runway and departure gates. Exact areas and control responsibilities are clearly defined in local documents and agreements at each airport. Any aircraft, vehicle, or person walking or working in these areas is required to have clearance from the ground controller. This is normally done via VHF radio, but there may be special cases where other processes are used. Most aircraft and airside vehicles have radios. Aircraft or vehicles without radios will communicate with the tower via aviation light signals or will be led by vehicles with radios. People working on the airport surface normally have a communications link through which they can reach or be reached by ground control,

Memories of Air Traffic Control

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

Air Traffic Control, RAF Gutersloh in 1997

Written by barry woodward

WO JT laughed uproariously when I asked to go to Medics for op to remove a Cyst. "Whatever will they do when they cut your head open and find it empty?" He chortled. "Promote me to WO" I replied. He was very unhappy.
Teaching Adrian Needham to play Chess during long night shifts. He was the only Officer who insisted on staying awake all night. Respect.
Working at Bertelsmanns with Jim Parr and cutting up old German military calendars to frame and sell. Jim and Patricia lived within sight of the Cinema and Pat wanted Jim to take her there. (It was the EROS cinema)

Air Traffic Control Hillingdon in 1961

Written by David Jones

Not strictly ATC but - in 1961, as a Leading Writer in the RN, I was posted to NATO job at CINCEASTLANT HQ at Northwood. Our accommdation was at RAF West Drayton with the RAF lads. We were bussed every day to Northwood via RAF Uxbridge to pick up the RAF NATO staff. I also remember socialising (and playing football!) with USAF personnel who were al accommodated at West Drayton Please tell me I did not dream all this?

Air Traffic Control, malaya in 1964

Written by tony senior

Whatching The Bridge over The River Qye on a sheet in the rain and wet fried egg sandwiches, kluang
Being blowen away and burnt by a Canberra that stopped and turn whilst I was next to the r/w painting, Kluang

Air Traffic Control, leuchars in 1971

Written by ellen moore

Alison, Jean and I believe Carla (sorry girls & boys cannot remember all surnames or everyone else) were on duty the night of March 31st and decided to play a prank on the morning relief.
We put on the flight board for the day a flight carrying the Chief Air Officer Commanding with the call sign APR01 (they would see through it straight away we thought)..... and all went of about our business for the day - myself to Dundee. Unfortunately not one person noticed the call sign clue.
On our return we were all called in to the CO’s office and given a right royal dressing down and put on extra duties because they had called out the Queens Reg to meet the flight, everyone went on clean up alert and the powers that be arranged an informal reception etc for the AOC. So a lot of red faces all round following our April Fools prank.
We survived our extra duties and went on to have lots more laughs and got into more trouble including ladies visiting the Mountain Rescue standby rooms incident - but thats another story.

Air Traffic Control, in 1966

Written by Carole Richards

Working at Little Rissington and being a liability driving the landrover on nightflying at Fairford. Goose neck flares had to be laid by an airman hanging out of the back of it as I lurched along with not even the rudiments of clutch control having been mastered.

Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname
Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait