some new to us photos from Pete Garrard of the unit in 1970 at the end of its operational life
The second London Air Traffic Control Centre, preceded by Uxbridge and succeeded by West Drayton. Malcolm Hemming has provided the colour aerial view of SATCC and a treasure trove of black and white pictures of SATCC which are reproduced below, plus an early London airways map and an A Watch staff list
THE SOUTHERN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL CENTRE
(from the GATCO Journal; Spring 1955)
Since the end of the war, Air Traffic Control for civil aircraft over Southern England has been exercised mainly from the Air Traffic Control Centre at Uxbridge. With the increasing density and complexity of civil flying and particularly of national and international scheduled flights, the civil element of the Centre has had to expand from the original ‘man and a boy’ with a WT set and a piece of perspex to a complex organisation which, at the beginning of this year, employed five flight-progress boards, five VHF R/T frequencies – four of them on the ‘multi-carrier’ system – and, at any one time, twelve Controllers and six Assistants. Nor was this the total amount of expansion. Since the introduction of the Airways System in 1951, radar has played an increasing part in the work of the Centre. The radar unit – London Radar – is part of the Air Traffic Control Centre but has, until now, been geographically separated from Uxbridge. Its expansion has followed that of Uxbridge and, at the beginning of this year, employed at any one time six Controllers and eight Assistants.
This expansion brought with it problems of accommodation and space and further expansion became almost impossible. More important, the physical separation of the procedural and the radar elements gave rise to operational and administrative limitations. The solution to these problems was obviously to bring the two elements together in new accommodation. The Southern Air Traffic Control Centre, which came into operation on 20th March, represents this solution. It has been built on the London Radar site at the western end of London Airport. Further expansion has taken place and in the operations room are six flight-progress boards, six MEW long-range radar displays and three short range cancelled radar displays. When all positions are manned there are 25 Controllers and 18 Assistants on duty. Nine VHF R/T frequencies are in use.
The biggest problem in bringing radar and procedural controllers together arises from the fact that the procedural controllers need good light for their work whereas the radar controllers need to work in semi-darkness. Unfortunately, daylight viewing tubes are still some years off. This problem has been solved by the use of trichromatic lighting. The flight-progress boards are illuminated by light which is deficient in yellow. The radar tubes are covered with orange filters so that very little of the yellow deficient light gets through the filter and on to the tube face, but the yellow ‘blip’ passes through the filter and is seen against a dark background. Reflections from waIls, ceiling and the surfaces of the equipment in the room have been reduced to a minimum by the careful positioning of equipment, the adjustment of angles of reflecting surfaces and the choice of non-reflecting colours and textures of paints.
A demonstration of this lighting system was given last November to which the Guild was invited and gave their comments on the system.
here is a contemporary report from Flight from Barry Davidson that includes a floor plan of SATCC.
and a second view of the Radars. Two views of a mobile Type 13 height finder and a back to back search radar (a Type 14?)
plus an article with a nice photo of the centre in 1955 together with some photos of its radars southern centre radars
Operations Room. General view showing Supervisor’s and Assistant’s Desk in foreground with three ‘A’ Controllers positions in background. South bank A-Side. Charlie Harvey, Geoff Bennett, Freddie Frost August 1959
Operations Room. View showing Supervisor’s Teleprinter (soundproofed) position with three ‘A’ Controllers positions in background. August 1959. Top left Charlie Harvey. Right – Ron Chisham on N-Bank A-Side
Operations Room. RAF MLS and Civil Flight Checker’s Desks, with Supervisor’s Radars in centre. ‘A’ Controllers positions in background. August 1959.
Operations Room. Detailed view of ‘A’ positions on Flight Progress Boards. August 1959. Charlie Harvey, George Fotheringham.
SC6a Charlie Harvey (via Paul Funnell) General view of all six ‘A’ positions on Flight Progress Board
SC6b presumably the D side (Barry Davidson)
SC6c Malcolm Hemming says “I’m pretty certain that that is Jack Saynor on the right. Sector 1 (Amber 2, Blue 3, Amber 30 etc), 127.1 M/cs”.
Operations Room. General view showing ‘D’ Outbound position in foreground with ‘D’ Controllers in background. August 1959. DO = Arthur Hurrell, D5 – Peter D. S. Mealing, standing, Derek Manley r. of P.D.S.M., AO = Derek Hale, Johnny Johnson (?) and Doug Bishop left.
SATCC. General view showing sector Radar Controllers in foreground and ‘D’ Controllers in right background. Assistants on ‘A’ Outbound position to left. August 1959. D5 – P.D.S.M., D6 left of PDSM, = Tony Vidler, Right of PDSM = Ken McDuff, ‘Lucky’ Craven, Alan Dixon. Bottom left = John ‘Duff’ Cooper.
SC8a photo from Les Tranter
SC8b Legend to photo above
SATCC – Operations Room. Detailed view showing left to right, Twin Radar, Edge – Lit Traffic Display, Sector Radar and further Traffic Display. August 1959.
The beacons on the edge lit board include Hurn, Hastings, Dunsfold and Seaford and above them Woodley, Epsom and Mayfield. the far information board has info on Gatwick and Heathrow.
SATCC – Operations Room. Detailed view of ‘D’ Controllers positions at Flight Progress Boards. August 1959.
SC10 – SATCC Pete MEALING on right early 1960s Detailed view of ‘D’ Controllers positions at Flight Progress Boards
SATCC – Operations Room. Detailed view of ‘A’ Outbound Controllers position in foreground, with Assistant’s position to his left and ‘D’ Outbound Controller in the background. August 1959. Derek Hale, Barney Reid (?)
Early sixties. D-Side, North Bank, Jock Cummings, John Cooper (Validation board?), John Nias-Cooper, Ted Elliott.
1967/68 Edge–lit boards. In the foreground with the nice shiny Chelsea boots is Ray Plant. Middle of the picture on the boards is Mike Gale ‘D’ Watch In the background is Alan May who went to ‘A’ Watch.
SATCC, prob c.1963-ish
SC14a SATCC D controller sectors 2/9 (subsequently became the SFD/WOR/HRN sectors)
SC14b SATCC D Outbound Controller , Thanks to Richard Dyett and Malcom Hemming for help identifying these – they were previously thought to be at Redbrae.
looking at this it may be even more appropriate to the Uxbridge post.
to read the A Watch list click on SATCC – A Watch 1962
Rubber FPS holders – best thing ever for clearing ice of your windscreen
Radars from left to right include( I think ) a type 14 low, a 264, a 232 and possibly a type 14 high
Sited at Heathrow North side SATCC continued to provide radar services until West Drayton opened fully in the early 1970s. SATCC was the typical black hole, as radar displays were not good with high ambient light levels.
John Page (centre) on the phone, It’s Sector 5 ‘A-Side’ – Malcolm Hemmings. John Page tells us that on the right is Harry Davies and on the left is Adrian Wright
SC20a (via Pete Garrard) Alan Gilliland
SC20b (via Pete Garrard) Helen Pennock- (Hicks) Leon Rob Rix
SC20c (via Pete Garrard) Roy Bogourd Tony Hearn
SC20a 1960s equipment room – MARS Voice Recorder, photo Les Tranter
SC20b possibly David Thompson who became Director of Projects in the late 1980s (photo from Les Tranter, dated 14t March 1963.
The photos below were sent in by Alan Dodson
SC21 The first is Alan in the Plot Extractor Maint Base c1988. The room was apparently sometimes known as the battery room
SC22 plot extractor and test equipment cabinet ( TEK)
SC23 equipment room LARS
SC23a equipment room LARS
SC24 plot extractor monitor of an SSR return with processing signals, probably QV ( quantized Video0 and one other).
SC25 the target generator part of the plot extractors test equipment cabinet
SC26 the wirewrap side of a plot extractor board
SC27 Val Jackson waiting for Alan Dodson to go off to some site
The interior shots below are the basement equip Rm which was bare at this time and the Ops room. The Ops room has had its ceiling removed as it was found to contain asbestos, and staff had been playing badminton in for years before anyone found out (the old empty ops room was used apparently as a badminton court for years!).