ATC History is  a growing collection of posts containing documents and photographic collections of UK Air Traffic Control in the second half of the 20th Century that have been passed to the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers for preservation.

Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers

It will continue to grow in months and years to come placing on line other photographic collections that have been passed to the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers for inclusion. We’d like to thank the CAA Library at Gatwick and the former NATS library at Hurn for donating the bulk of the material and all those from the ATS community who continue to add to it.

To all ATS personnel, civil and military, past and present, your comments, corrections, expansions and additions are welcome, invited, nay even demanded. This is your history, feel free to adopt it and contribute. Please remember that this is an ATC history site not just a control tower/centre site. we’ve added a lot of new towers recently but to do our job we need interior shots, people pics, equipment info too.

We’ve posted information and /or photos for every unit on which we have information. If a unit isn’t featured its either because they didn’t feature in the original donated archives (or at least are not identified in those archives) or that staff from missing units haven’t submitted anything (yet!).

Some unit posts have become very large and so now we’ve started “part2” blogs for LATCC, EGLL, EGBB, EGCC and eventually some others.

We have a lot on the training school at Hurn, and at last some material on the RAF’s Central School of Air Traffic Control at RAF Shawbury. Nothing much on IAL’s training activities at Bailbrook or elsewhere, or the other training centres that opened up in the last 30 years.

We have some personal archives. Some, like Mike Bloodworth’s and Arthur Childs have been published here, some like Reg Simmond’s material we are gradually feeding into the site. We also have an extensive audio archive of recordings and articles by Eric Matthews telling the story of his aviation and ATC career and we know of one additional recording of a speech by E Vincent Miller.  We can digitise these recordings so we’ve expanded the site to accommodate the audio MP3 files.

I’ve recently been to the National Aerospace Museum at Farnborough who have  a large ex CAA photo archive on West Drayton (Civil and Military). I’ve borrowed a large collection of mainly 35mm slides and some black and white glossies to scan in.

Additional documentation, charts, maps and unit photos are from Tim Brown, Edward Angus, Pete Clarke, Bob Jackie, Brian Macdermott, Alan Rosser, Colin Mitchell, Alan Jackson, Dick Gilbert, Tom Singfield, Don Gilham, Nick Phythian, Steve Richards, James Granger,  John Dack, Peter Hargreaves, Reg Simmonds, Grenville Paget, Norman Henderson, Elvetham Publications, Ian Metson, David Thompson, Terry Day, George Jones, Dave Smith, Piers Gardiner, Barry Davidson, Dave Coxon, Les Tranter, John Bennett , Dennis Crabb via Bob Connolly, Phil Hayes, Paul Funnell, Harry Hockney, Roy Kendall, the Schaeffer family via Ian Dennis, M J (John) Douglas, Norman Henderson, Andy Rackham, Martyn Pawson, John DoigAlastair  C Campbell, Leo Marriott, Mike Harper, Dave Gearing,  McAlpines, Mike Hirst, Chris Stock, Alan Dodson, Simon Card, David Greer, Ray Draper, Alastair Meikle, Mike Sargent, Eric Mathews, John Faulkner, Adrian James, Russell Coy-Burt, Mark Brock, Tony Mannion, Steve Balfour, the ‘Old Bartonians’ Facebook group, Bernard Brown, Mike Bloodworth, John Gilbert, Malcolm Hemming and some from Colin McKeeman  and other non-ATS sources are already included.

Many thanks for all your comments – keep them coming. Once the site has been upgraded we’ll do a trawl through them and update the text in the various posts. Don’t forget to use the search facility. there are now many more posts (500 as of May 2021) than I can list down the right hand side (Max 150). Use a unit name, initials, ICAO code etc., to see if your unit of interest is there. You can also search by radar heads sites, radar types, communications and navigation aids.

happy (I hope) nostalgia bingeing

John Levesley

40 thoughts on “About”

  1. Not sure what possessed me…I guess I’m missing my dad but I decided to google his name Alan Rackham, air traffic control and was delighted to find a picture of him!


    1. welcome to atchistory Carolyn. Lots of the “readership” will remember your Dad from his time as an instructor at the School, later College of ATC, at Bournemouth Hurn Airport. Hopefully some of his other former students and colleagues will reply to your comment with more memories. John Levesley, atchistory Adminstrator.


    2. I was on 23 Cadet Course and well remember Alan Rackam; t’was he who was a tremendous help to us in our first steps as a cadet by getting us all together on our first night to ‘weld’ us together in a coherent unit; he also provided us with additional ‘coaching’ via an ATCO Cadet/RAF Sopley football match.


      1. Thank you…so nice to hear from you and that you remember my dad. I appreciate your comment very much. Thank you.


  2. There I am on 48 course! The year is 1982 and NATS accepted non state people to join. I am back row 3rd from the left paid for by Biggin Hill. The two in the front row wearing I am non state shirts were from Oxford and Cambridge. The one on the right is Guy Feekins from Oxford, the one on the left was Mike Woodley? from Cambridge. Back row furthest right is Dick Garnett if I remember correctly.


  3. Brilliant sight; fascinated by old charts and old photos. Some wonderful memories and insights here. One question, if I may: I see that you have part 2 of the Heathrow ATC link, but I could not find part 1. Would it be possible to post a link to that?


  4. Hi there, Great site, keep the contributions coming.

    I think your audience might well appreciate the following video which is a BBC documentary from 1988, describing the UK ATC system and the issues facing the LATCC based at West Drayton at that time. I recorded it and have kept the tape all this time.

    Apologies the quality is relatively poor, but obviously the recording was on old analogue TV onto VHS tape in the 80’s and was converted a while back. I did post it some back on PPRuNe and it generated some interest there as well.

    Link to video – https://youtu.be/ZKpX7B_A2hY
    PPRuNe posting – https://www.pprune.org/atc-issues/224624-struggling-control.html



  5. Re the ‘Ex ATSA’ Hurn course in 1972, there are a few other names I can add. As already commented it was a combination of ex RAF and Army non-comms, Royal Navy Officers, and some Class to Class individuals and I think started Sept 1972. Pete Terry, Tony McAndrew, Tony Burke, Chris Lewis, Bill Walker are some of those missing. It was quite a stir up of the CAA ATC admin at the time – all the Officers went to Airfields, all the remainder went to LATCC. Graham While was ex Merchant Navy who knew Ted van Dort from those days and got in touch when his Aerodrome famil was not to his liking (I think Inverness but certainly Scotland) and got it changed. Unfortunately, he had told me about the plan but it was myself his post was swapped with (mine was Farnborough) and after much management wrist wringing, it was changed back again!
    More names as/if they spring to mind

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hugh

      We are an atc history site and as Neatishead was we understand an air defence unit it falls outside our remit. Its radar heads did of course provide a remote radar option for Northern and Eastern Radars


      1. There were, I think, two NT feeds (NT84 and NT85) available on the MASOR radar screens at West Drayton.


  6. Hi John, Just happened on this website and saw the picture of us getting our PPLs at Cambridge so long ago. Give me a hoy on my email account to swap life stories, love to hear what happened to our fellow cadets! Kind Regards, John Welsh.


  7. Hi everyone

    I’m preparing a presentation on the making of the 1969 film “Battle of Britain” which was filmed over the summer of 1968 – exactly 50 years ago.I know that Arnold Field worked closely with MATO to reserve airspace for the filming. I’ve got a couple of priceless stories (one came from Pete “Pedro” Rose when we worked together at the College). I’m after stories, photo’s, little know facts etc – can anyone help? First “airing” for the Brooklands Members on 2nd December!
    Please email me at phil@highflyingtalks.co.uk.


  8. Can anyone remember rough details of ‘Kent Radar’, a service provided by NATS until the late ’80s or early ’90s using a console in the RAF control tower at Manston. There was a ‘Special Rules Area’ (I can’t remember the vertical limits) over much of Kent and up to the FIR boundary to the east in which Kent Radar operated and although it had a fixed establishment of 4 controllers (no assistants), one or two LATCC controllers also carried out leave relief duties there.
    I was at camp with ATC cadets at Manston during Easter 1986 and paid them a visit; I can remember that pilots were required to file flight plans to transit the area, the teleprinter being on the floor by the controllers’ feet!


  9. Hello again,
    Do you have any high res photos of Orangefield Tower or Redbrae House, Prestwick, that I could use to support the text in a forthcoming book about Prestwick Airport?
    Best Regards,


  10. As a volunteer researcher for the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach Va, USA we are looking a listing of the equipment furnishing a 8936/40 control tower. We have rebuilt the tower from Goxhill and as it is almost structurally complete, we would to furnish to period. Can you help?


    1. Can I suggest you look at the Yorkshire Air Museum Elevington They have refurbished the wartime tower at RAF Elevington to 1940`s Its is also an ex USAF base with a runway long enough for the B36
      Hope this of use
      Rgds Sandy Sandford Retired ATCO EGPH


  11. Hi, I installed most of the Cossor radars around the UK (and abroad) back in the 80’s, nice to see they have an interest and have been archived. Don’t have many photos I’m afraid, but then who took photos of work stuff, it costs money to develop photos then


    1. Now there’s a name I remember – acceptance testing on HARPS with my NATS colleague George Barron and on the Cossor side Chris McDermott, Eric Hayman, Mark Preston and Allan Robb (the latter ending up in NATS but sadly no longer with us). Hope you are keeping well.


  12. my daughter has just forwarded the site to me……wonderful…..did not realise that most folk were so ugly! ( lol )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 24 course Back Row from the left: Tim Marshall, Dave Rosher, Paul Spencer (Dec’d), Stu Brighton, John Wildman, Clive Gell, ?, Barry Friar, Phil Rattledge, Andy?, Bert Hayes.
      Front from left: Andy Hay,??, Steve Sharpe, John Paton,Christine Goodwin, Janet Firminger, Jim Shaw, Gerry Newman,Rick Morton, Chris ?


    2. The controller in PK6 is Tony Riome, who worked at Croydon (really!!) in his early years! Alive and well living in Ayrshire. 🙂


  13. Hi John

    We have an ATCO at Birmingham who retiring soon and we are trying to collect as many photos of him as possible. I’ve looked through the photos on here and there are a few of him. I was wondering if I could get permission to copy them?

    Kind regards



    1. Hello Vicky

      please copy whatever you wish. I’m busy posting some group photographs of ATCO courses at the moment, so there may be more coming up very soon

      John Levesley


  14. Really enjoying this engrossing site. Have been interested in ATC and airports for years and this is right on my flight-path! Keep up the good work.


  15. Hi John

    Great site, loving seeing the new pictures coming to light. Don’t know if you want to add a link to my Ronaldsway ATC site. If you want some of the pictures (some were supplied by you anyway!) Let me know and I can send you originals. Maybe you’d like to mention my claim to Ronaldsway being the longest continuous serving civil ATC unit in the British Isles, 1937 – present day, including the war years!

    If I can be of any assistance please let me know.

    All the best


  16. What a fantastic site! So good to see so many pictures of the intimate workings of UK ATC, most of which are from before my time.


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An archive of 20th century air traffic control photographs and other media sponsored by the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers http://gatco.org/

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