The 5 Towers of Sydney Airport



I knocked this page together in a bit of a hurry to add to the Old Control Tower thread. These pics are photos of photos in a display cabinet at work, so the quality is not great - an inevitable loss of sharpness and there are some reflections off glossy pictures. I only use a 4 megapixel point-and-shoot, not like most of you folks!! Nevertheless, I hope you find the page of some interest.

Click on the thumbnails for larger pics (800*600, with a couple of exceptions.)


The first tower built 1937 and used until 1941:-

The first Control Tower was built atop the aero club's clubhouse. I guess there would be few problems with reflections in the windows:-) That is NOT me reaching up to the roof :-)

At that time few aircraft had radio. Communication was by visual signals, using the two large balls, visible in this photo near the roofline. These were raised and lowered in various combinations - there cannot have been many. If only ATC were as simple now! And what about the readbacks???? (In joke, sorry.)

Perhaps, when someone had to go around, this became the origin of the phrase "There's been a balls-up in the Tower!"



The second one, 1941 to 1956:-.

This design became the standard of the time. Similar buildings, incorporating office space and a half-round room at the front for a tower cab were built at Parafield and Archerfield, two relatively busy airports of the era.

A traveller's view of the front of the building
. You can see the half round tower cab which faced the aerodrome.

As it is today. Two years ago QANTAS were using it for apron control and bay allocation. The building has a preservation order on it, so I presume it will continue to serve a purpose, rather than be abandoned.



The third, 1956 to 1972:-

Pretty advanced for its time. The airport firestation was located alongside. Staff were allowed to drive across the apron/taxiway to park, and catering leftovers from the airlines were regularly delivered. Ahhh, those were the days!

The interior, stuffed with the technical aids of the day. The small console has three work positions - an air-ground operator at each end for surface and air traffic and a coordinator in the middle. Each air-ground controller has a clock (white face) and an altimeter setting indicator (for QNH, black face). The two white instruments in the middle are wind direction and wind speed. The compartmented tray in the middle is the automatic altitude assignment board which indicated the sequence and altitudes assigned to arriving aircraft by area controllers in the area control centre which used to be located where the western end of the domestic car park is now (landside of T2 gate 49).



The fourth tower, 1972 to 1996:-

Photo: Mark Dowsett, Sydney ATC.
This is the "Old Control Tower", as it is currently known, joined by the aerial corridor to the Air Traffic Services Centre on Gen. Holmes Drive, Kyeemagh. You can see the current tower with its spiral staircase in the background.
This fourth tower had horrendous design problems, being designed and built by then Government departments in an era of entrenched bureaucracy. Oh, those clever engineers, they knew everything and had no need to consult with the users of the thing. It had window pillars strategically placed to hide whichever landing threshold a controller might have been interested in,
and there was a screw-up with the height datum. The controllers' sight-lines were based upon an eye-level of xx feet above aerodrome reference level. Eye height was actually built xx feet above sea level, 29 feet too low. As a result, the view was unsatisfactory from day 1, but too expensive to correct as demolition would have been required.

This is the interior. Despite building design problems, the fit-out and workspace was pretty good. The standard tower design of the day was an island console, whereas now the benefits of a curved perimeter console are acknowledged. SMC is at the far end, then a Coordinator, Aerodrome Control Coordinator and closest, the Aerodrome Controller. The black hole in front of the two Aerodrome controllers is the Terminal radar, deeply inset to reduce the effects of glare. Surface Movement Radar had not yet been provided. The two people seated at the back of the console are Flight Data Officers, whose job it was to analyse flight plans as they came off the teleprinter and write the appropriate paper flight progress strips. That job is now fully automated by TAAATS. (You'll get some more info on that when you follow the links associated with the Fifth Tower, below.)



The fifth and current tower, opened in January 1996:-

There's a lot that can be written about this pretty fabulous facility, but it's all contained elsewhere so there's not much point in duplicating it.
Click on these links that you may well already know:-

Helicopter Photos - Corporate Hoore Click on the Sydney Tower link, but the others are very good too.
Sydney Tower Airservices Australia Sydney Tower web page.
Other Towers Click on the locations on the map or the links to the left to see info on other Airservices' Towers.

All pictures appearing on this page are used with the kind permission of the AirServices Australia Manager of Sydney Operations.