The first Flight Progress Strip?

BASC 2small

FPS 1 Berlin airlift centre FPS Boards from Barry Davidson

We’ve had a query from Tom Singfield to see if we can pin down the origin of the FPS and the FPS Board used to provide a controller with a traffic situation display enabling conflict detection and resolution and supporting clearance issue and co-ordination. We’ve assumed that these are pre-formatted strips with a standardised method of inserting and amended data.

Did en-route and airfield/approach strips appear at the same time and from the same need and origin?

The earliest clue that we can find on atchistory is that in the Berlin Airlift (1948-49)  the Centre managing the traffic flow adopted the American system of using FPS Boards. We’ve also found online references and photos showing the use of FPS in the USA in approach and en-route in the late 1930s. In the UK we have dated photos of FPS and boards in use in 1953 at the original (?) London Radar Services at Heathrow working with Uxbridge ATCC .

Ian Walker  Chair of Trustees Historic Croydon Airport Trust tells us that

“Flight tracking at Croydon was performed by the CATO’s, initially using small markers with aircraft details on a custom produce metal backed map. The custom built metal backed map was in operation when the new Tower opened in 1928 and replaced the cork backed version in the old timber Tower (Jimmy Jeffs developed that system).

It seems that the forerunner to Flight Progress Strips would be something that could be best described as flight progress slips (see FPS2 below). Croydon began operating a system of coloured paper slips to track aircraft movements which also tracked operational messages, company messages and ground to air/ air to ground messages. These slips can be seen pinned to the left of the map. Below the map are a series of compartments to organise the paper slips as the flights progressed to destination.”


FPS 2 (1934-36 ish)

Over to you for your comments. We’d love comments from our international readership not just UK readers.

Phil Vabre has told us that a trial FPB was introduced at Melbourne/Essendon ACC in 1946, reportedly based on US practice.


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