The College of ATC and the new 1960s building.


GOOD NEWS UPDATE Dec 15th 2017

Anyone who had any occasion to visit the old 1960s building that hosted the College of ATC at Hurn will remember two items of decor, the wall mounted naive mosiac in the entrance hall and the display of flags of those nations who had been trained at CATC and its predecessor the School of ATC (see CA11a and CA12 below). Before NATS vacated the site there had been some discussion about the wall mounted mosaic, described by those with arts and craft interests as a rare example of a 1960’s naive mosaic of artistic merit and value. Nothing was ever determined as to its merit before closure.

Today atchistory was able to visit Parkfield school the new owners of the former NATS site. We had queried the status of the mosaic and shields in the new building and John Levesley was invited to visit the site to see the situation.


The mosaic has been retained to remember the previous use of the site. It is in good condition, some minor repairs have been made. A small section top left had been lost to a conduit. The school also has all the plaques from all the different nations that sent students to Hurn. The Schools intention is to remount them on the stairwells as a reminder of the history of the buildings they now occupy.

About 20% of the College and 40% of the old EU are as yet unused though by the time the school reaches 400 pupils it will all be brought into use again. The old centre block has gone, and has been replaced by a new swish indoor sports facility, the cinema is now a dance studio and all those bits of the site that are in use and have been rebuilt are decorated and fitted out to a high standard.

CATC brochure 1984

Steve Balfour tells us in the brochure in the picture of EGCC VCR are, L-R, Dave Waugh, GMC at present unknown, Marilyn Murphy front desk ATSA, John Brooks on Air (nearest to the camera), and Dave Close standing with the bins.
The photo of the LATCC style suite in the brochure has Brian Collins standing on the right. On the College radar display it looks like Cliff Hudson top left and Alan Grummitt bottom right.

final hurn siteCA1

the final NATS site with both the ATCEU (extreme right) and CATC (top left) extensions

NEW 1962 building in 80s aerial viewCA2

1980s aerial view of the NATS site at Hurn

1962 building phptographed in the late 60sCA3

catc 60s 1CA4

CATC 1969

CA4a CATC 1969 Alastair  C Campbell

The College, was built in 1962 at a cost of £505k and construction of the new  facility was not without incident.  Intended to house both the College of ATC and the ATCEU (Air Traffic Control Evaluation Unit), the first delivery of bricks turned out to be a revolting shade of yellow and all misshapen – they were promptly rejected and replaced by the present well shaped red ones.  During construction, weeks of delay were caused by the disappearance of all the internal  steelwork.  This had left the factory by rail but all trace of its whereabouts lost!  It was finally located in a siding at Herne Bay in Kent !

                                bigger bull 2     CA5

                                     Frank Bulstrode 

Catc in CAA daysCA6

college entranceCA7

The then Superintendent of the School, Frank Bulstrode, later commentated that “When we finally moved to the new building it was heaven !  To be in purpose built accommodation, properly lighted and heated, with new furniture for staff and students – it was quite fabulous”.  Heating in those days was oil fired and, amazingly and expensively, it remained so until closure !!

are radar flat top display - ex RN for area radar simulator. At centre is College Superintendent Eric MatherCA8


Eric Mather explains the idea behind using the  flat top or pedestal mounted area radar display. 

(These were rumoured  to be ex Royal Navy displays from an aircraft carrier and were in fact slightly domed which caused problems using the “shrimp boats” (clear plastic labels with chinographed callsigns that you pushed along next to the blips). One nudge and you lost all your idents. They were certainly is use at CATC for area radar training in 1969)

Eric Mather succeeded Frank Bulstrode as Superintendent and recalls the ‘hand over’ tour of the College during which “We passed one room without comment and, later, I discovered it housed not only members of staff but also a variety of dogs which these worthy employees could not leave at home all on their own !”

The new building and its up to date equipment – including a cinema – were key to a rapid increase of both UK and Overseas Training  and, in 1968, these efforts were internationally recognised when the School was awarded the title and status of College of Air Traffic Control.  Statistics for those ‘initial’ years show that by 1963 the School had a throughput of 568 students and by 1970, as a College, the figure had risen to 909.  A throughput which even by to-days standard would be considered remarkable!

Trainers and Trainees…………….

In the early days, the majority of UK trainees were recruited from aircrew and personnel leaving the armed forces.  But as the military was gradually ‘slimmed down’, so the potential number of ATC trainees was also reduced.  As a consequence, the Ministry of Aviation introduced an ATCO Cadet Training Scheme and in 1962 the first course embarked on an ambitious three year training programme.  Often described as the Rolls Royce of ATC training, these early Cadet Courses exposed trainees to all aspects of Aerodrome / Approach and Area Control, along with flying training to PPL standard and acting as Safety Pilots in the ‘live’ targets operated for radar training by CAFU (Civil Aviation Flying Unit). The Cadet scheme is still a major element of NATS training, although the participants are now known as Trainee Air Traffic Controllers and the duration and content of initial training radically reduced to embrace just a single discipline. Sadly, there is no definitive record of the number of trainees who have passed through The School / College of ATC. But one thing is certain – it is numbered in thousands !!

Similarly, the early school  / college instructors tended to be controllers with military backgrounds and operational experience of civil ATC.  In the main they were ‘true professionals’ who delivered a high standard of instruction and, in return, expected high standards from their students.  They promoted team-work and encouraged each course to develop an individual identity  – which was not difficult given the mix of personalities involved !

Many individual instructors and College managers were, themselves, colourful characters and became quite legendary !

Without doubt, Frank Bulstrode, Superintendant of the College from 1956-69 ,  was a perfect example.  Totally dedicated to the profession, Frank had been a pre 1939 civil flying control officer and a wartime ATCO in the Royal Air Force. He was responsible for setting up an allied ATC unit to facilitate the Yalta Conference.  With his one glass eye, a penchant for riding other peoples motor-cycles and his reputation as one of the UK’s foremost authorities on Swiss postage stamps, Frank really was some character ! The Bull, as he was inevitably known, was a charming gentleman, who cared a lot about the students, and who always came to “do’s” just long enough to drink one half of beer, chat and leave. He however had a disconcerting throw away line when asked about the ATCO training programme and recruitment criteria, saying “he liked ATC to recruit half wits, then the training programme would add the other half”.

The ‘chalk and talk’ techniques of the classroom were gradually replaced by modern techniques and lecture facilities.  Teaching these techniques even became part of the College programme with the introduction of instructional technique courses.

Many still recall the college instructor who used a well worn OHP slide to introduce himself to overseas students.  Specialising in teaching RTF techniques and phraseology, this particular instructor had asked a student to write his ‘intro’ in Arabic script and, then, could never quite understand why it was received with tumultuous laughter and great applause !!  One could only guess what had been written !!

And fond memories of the instructor who ‘blew up’ a beautifully crafted model of a civil airliner with working nav lights – the focal point of his carefully prepared lesson !  Not to mention the Flight Planning Instructor, mid 1960’s, who had a tendency to light the filter tip of his Woodbine, which usually caught fire and threatened his knitted cardigan !

As early as 1950, other countries quickly recognised the need to develop a structured ATC service and began to send their students to learn the UK’s exclusive techniques. And that year was notable for the first of the Foreign and Commonwealth courses which had just 16 Overseas Students !  To date, students from over 150 countries have attended training courses at Bournemouth and CATC can rightly boast to have set a ‘bench mark’ for ATC training and airspace management throughout the world. All aspects of the profession have been taught – from Initial / Primary Instruction to Advanced Radar Techniques to Terminal / Approach and even a series of courses enabling experienced Israeli Controllers to practice emergency situations  ….  which often resulted in the ‘student’ demonstrating a unique solution to the ‘instructor’ !

college new extension (left)CA9


1960s naive mosaic in College entrance hallCA11

CATC mosaic


the 1960s naïve mosaic about ATC, on the wall of the College entrance.

CATC flags

CA12 – John Faulkner



entrance lobby with flagsCA13

The flag tally of the many nations trained at the College Laurie Shields on the left, John Rose in the centre, Eileen Gazzard on right.

NEW libraryCA14

library 2CA15

The library

36 ATCO Cadet CourseCA16

36 ATCO Cadet Course doing a formation impersonation of course manager H J (Ted) Tilly

cadet flyingCA17

Flying with the C.A.F.U.

I think the cadet is Pat Lowrence,

“The pilot stepping into the CAFU Dove is “Ben” Gunn, ex Navigator who went on to become an Examiner (examining Students wishing to gain a commercial pilots licence) as well as becoming an HS748 pilot flying the Navaid Inspectors on their calibration duties of both en-route and landing aids.”

info on Ben Gunn is from Jim Fuller who runs a CAFU web site at Jim has also written a book on CAFU available through Amazon. The book is Safety Was No Accident: History of the UK Civil Aviation Flying Unit CAFU 1944 -1996


east fortune dove

CA17a Pete Clarke says

This photo should be instantly recognised by many cadets. The last course to fly in the De Havilland Dove were No. 26 Approach Radar course in 1975.
For those that missed the experience, the aircraft would be brought to Hurn to enable trainees to have a chance at handling a real aircraft and positioning it onto the approach for the airfield. A couple of trainees would be taken over to the approach radar room in the tower and a third would head out to the aircraft for a flight in the right hand seat. The captain would often hand over control of the aircraft after a (very) brief familiarisation to let us fly it around. I remember it being great fun.
I flew with one mischievous pilot who would drop down low over the bay to hide below radar so the trainee could not find us. He then suggested we had an engine failure so called “mayday” to see how the trainee would react. – He didn’t just simulate it, he actually shut it down for a while!
Finally, he would call “field in site” while on approach then dive off the approach path for the old disused wartime airfield of Stoney Cross and suggested we see how low we would get before the trainee realised we were heading for the wrong airfield.
Those were the days!
P.S. The aircraft is now on display at East Fortune Aviation Museum near Edinburgh.


also from Pete

playmobil jumbo


This is my son’s Playmobil jumbo jet. He was only four when I was at the College as an instructor and thought it funny that his dad would pinch his toy to use during lectures.
Any course there in the late 1980s (87-91) will remember it. I used to walk into the room pulling it behind me on a piece of string. It certainly got their attention. I then produced coloured discs, suitably bent and with double-sided sticky tape to give the “Blue Peter” lecture on aircraft lights.
After leaving the College I bumped into students who recalled those lectures so it worked.


careers stand twynham school 1979CA18

John Levesley providing ATC Careers advice

app ftuCA19

Jock Mouatt running a procedural approach control session, in this case at the Hurn FTU


The staff restaurant

John Pilling comments ” CA20 has mostly 55 course in view, namely :- queuing up are Andy Trayler, Joe Nicol, Phil Jackson. Table just behind them, Tony Picton, Andy Badham and I think Graham Riches. Lady with hand on hip in striped top and partly cropped from picture is I believe Claire Horsfall with Ali Parrot also in shot partly obscuring Clare”.  “And the Cadet sitting nearest the camera on the left is Mike Doyle, later Manchester and Heathrow” …… Tony Doyle


CATC passes

CA20a   from Dave Smith dating from 1966, two essential items in a CATC staff or student’s possession. anyone got a picture of the old Club in the Nissen Hut?

Instructional technique training Ken Thompson right, Roger Druce leftCA21

Instructional  technique training Ken Thompson right, Roger Druce left

Major changes to the College accommodation, simulation equipment and examination techniques have been routinely undertaken to cope with operational / licence demands.

Area radar training, in the 60’s, relied heavily on a large analogue computer with each input position simulating just one aircraft !  Today’s input operator manages a digital system with multi-target capacity.  The modernisation of the UK’s ATC System / MEDIATOR, in the late 60’s, was quickly reflected in all aspects of the College’s Area Training Programme as increasing numbers of graduates moved to the newly operational LATCC at West Drayton.

And similarly, over a period of years, ADC students have ‘progressed’ from a wall mounted light board / aerodrome display to a sophisticated layout of computer monitors, replicating a whole series of chosen scenarios !

Another ‘Milestone’ occurred in 1991 when a large extension to the College was completed and opened for use. This significantly improved the accommodation for simulation staff and, immediately, provided increased space for classrooms / ops rooms.

But of equal importance, the 1990’s were marked by major changes to both the arrangement of training courses and examination procedures.  Courses were ‘slimmed down’ to accelerate the College training phase and prepare students for a single discipline – rather than a ‘broad exposure’ to all aspects of ATC.  Likewise a system of ‘assessment exercises’ was introduced to replace the traditional ‘sudden death’ practical examination at the end of each course.  Similarly, the fearsome Oral Board with three / four examiners was gradually replaced by an equally stressful one to one oral exam !!

Cadet training courses were constantly under review and attracted a number of innovative phases to reflect the current needs of the profession and ‘business’ – including a highly popular ‘Airline Awareness Course’ which was conducted by BA !

Rob Peacock has sent in some photos of the College interior in  later days. that I’ve set up as a slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



typical classroom in 1970sCA23


aerodrome simulatorCA25

Alan Binning running a session on the aerodrome simulator, upgraded to a light display . It would take a bit longer for an all electronic system



aerodrome control simulatorCA28






 classroom exercise for approach procedural control   CA33

On the left is Dick Gallup (identified by Malcolm Hemming), Dave Moffat is on the right. This is a classroom exercise teaching flight progress strip marking for the procedural approach course. A map of the fictional Hurn Zone used on the course is displayed on the board to the right of Dave Moffat.

approach procedural control simulatorCA34

standing is Charlie Millar and  seated is Jim Morrison (on 14 Course?) thanks to George Hutton for the idents.

student input for tower or approach control simulatorCA35



approach radar course radar simulator pictureCA36

NEW approach radar simulatorCA37

approach radar simulatorCA38

The man in the blue shirt is Ian Platt –  Malcolm Hemming
catc approach radarCA39

assistant positionCA40

Think is this Judy Hunt


area roomCA41

overseas area procedural trainingCA42

The scribe in the middle is Lionel Chennell. The real name of the instructor at the far end with the moustache and waistcoat escapes me, however he was known as ‘Precious Pup’ – Malcolm Hemming


This is the original Area Procedural training facility in the “new” building.  The view on the left is from the “Flying Bridge” which was a raised area at the north end of the centre block.  This area of the block hasn’t yet been partitioned. In the photo are Brian Pegden and John Gilbert, the students are in the background on the flight progress strip boards on the lower level. John Gilbert was responsible for setting up something known as the “Jack Field” for each course, very archaic and complicated (explanations on a postcard please).




A later view of area procedural training when it had moved to a temporary building across the car park known less than affectionately as the Cowshed. A throwback to the now long demolished pre 62 accommodation.

area procedural 1CA44

CA44 Greg Dollerson (standing), Chris Swinn (seated) (Alan Grove)

area procedural 2CCA45 Dave Hough (jacket on chair) Think his student is Ian McMorran (Alan Grove)  also in CA45 above and CA47 below Alan Grove instructor sitting (short sleeved white shirt) John Baker
area procedural 4CA46


area procedural hurn sectorCA47

Chris Swinn standing John Faulkner

area procedural simulator room in the 'Cowshed'CA48

CA48 Instructor standing with dark jacket is Dixie ‘where’s your separation’ Dean (Alan Grove)



Mediator suite - used by CATC from mid 70s to early 80s for area radar and pre validity training for LATCCCA49

A typical Mediator suite at Hurn, an early version of those used at West Drayton from the 1970s, again with flat top radars.

This photo was also included in the ATCEU file (these suites at Hurn changed ownership between the College and EU several times. The equipment fit and room features suggest however they are at West Drayton after pre validity training was transferred back there. I think that’s Denis Sergeant from the LATCC training section on  the right in the jacket.

2nd from left Steve Thorogood. Hand out writing on strip. John Baker
aerea radar roomCA50

CA50 Second from left Kevin Morgan, third from left John Nias-Cooper (Alan Grove)

RADAR SIMULATOR INPUT (ACPs AIrcraft Control Positions)


acp colourCA52

Kevin Binning? (Alan Grove)



aircraft control 'pseudo pilot' positions - ACPsCA54

Irv Leonard on left, John Dimond standing


13 thoughts on “The College of ATC and the new 1960s building.”

  1. CA38: The man in the blue shirt is Ian Platt.
    CA42; The scribe in the middle is Lionel Chennell. The real name of the instructor at the far end with the moustache and waistcoat escapes me, however he was known as ‘Precious Pup’.


  2. CA20 has mostly 55 course in view, namely :-
    queuing up are Andy Trayler, Joe Nicol, Phil Jackson.
    Table just behind them, Tony Picton, Andy Badham and I think Graham Riches.
    Lady with hand on hip in striped top and partly cropped from picture is I believe Claire Horsfall with Ali Parrot also in shot partly obscuring Clare.


      1. Yes I should have started “As well as Mike Doyle “!! Many hazy memories of nights in the Seagull.


  3. The ATCO Cadet course started life as a 4 year course with a plan to give Cadets experience in all three of what were then called “Divisions” – Scottish, Northern and Southern. The length of the Cadet course was reduced to 3 years from, I think, Number 4 course on. No.3 did 3 years 3 months. Quite right about Mr Roger Frank Bulstrode – “he liked ATC to recruit half wits, then the training programme would add the other half” …. in other words complete half wits at the end !!! Happy days.


    1. The Cadet on the extreme front left of CA20 in the restaurant is Mike Doyle, 55 Course, now a Watch Manager at Heathrow.


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