By Ian Brown, Assistant Curator of Aviation
In August 2011 National Air Traffic Services (NATS) very generously donated an air traffic control console to National Museums Scotland. This was used to control the Hebrides Sector, covering a large expanse of the far north west of Scotland, and came from the Scottish Area Control Centre (ScATCC), opeating from Atlantic House near Prestwick Airport. The console was introduced in 1978 and continued in use, with frequent equipment upgrades, until 2009 when ScATCC moved to the Prestwick Centre nearby.
National Museums Scotland already holds a number of items of air traffic control equipment. In particular, we have several control desks used in Oceanic Area Control in Atlantic House. These desks were in use between 1972 and 1978. They came to the National Museum of Flight back in 1991 and formed the centrepiece of a display about air traffic control, as shown here.
The console acquired in August had to be stripped out for ease of transport and a team from NATS came to the National Museum of Flight for two days to put it all back together again. The photo below shows the equipment as it arrived at the museum.
After two days of fitting cables, screwing in components and connecting everything together, the console was completely transformed. With recording air traffic control radar displays fed to the screens and the backlit map displays all working, the equipment now looks exactly as the NATS team remembers it in use, barely two years ago. The images below show the guys working on the equipment, and then finished result.
Air traffic control is an aspect of aviation that everyone knows about but very few ever get to see such equipment outside the movies. It is hoped to display our collection of air traffic control equipment in due course at the National Museum of Flight and give everyone a chance to experience this hidden side of aviation.