Isle of Man ATC in the 1990s
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The 1990s - Major Changes to ATC at Ronaldsway
When I first arrived at Ronaldsway in July 1990, ATC was run much as it had been since the introduction of radar in the 1960s. Slight changes were that the Marconi AD210 VHF Radio Direction Finder had been replaced with a Fernau Digital Radio Direction Finder (DRDF) that had a rather unnecessarily large orange display in the desk and that the Met observations now arrived on a small black and white TV display replacing the old hand written reports. The radio and telephone system was apparently 'home made' and had large lever switches for controls, not unlike an old telephone exchange.
Flight progress strips were being printed by a newer computer system, although the recording of aircraft movements was still in a hand written logbook by the tower assistant, for some strange reason in pencil.  The usual watch staffing was for three ATCOs and two Assistants, with a Morning Shift starting at 06:00 followed by the Afternoon shift at 13:15 with the airport closing at 20:45. There was no regular fatigue break system in place, when required Approach Control would close down for ATCO breaks to be taken, similarly the approach assistant could move upstairs to give the tower assistant a break. 
Aerodrome (Tower) Control in the early 1990s
Aerodrome Control - 1990
Fernau large DRDF display
CCTV with METAR Observations
Card for calculating QFE Threshold
Control techniques remained much the same as had been established with the arrival of radar in 1966. In Approach there was generally both an 'Approach Procedural' and 'Approach Radar' controller, with an Air Traffic Control Assistant taking estimates on inbound aircraft and annotating the Flight Progress Strips. All arrivals and departures were individually co-ordinated with Manchester Centre by the Approach Procedural controller, who would then pass the flight progress strip to the Approach Radar controller if vectoring or radar separation was required. 
An '8 mile check' on inbound aircraft would be passed by intercom from radar to the Tower controller upstairs as the only surveillance equipment Tower had were eyes, binoculars and the radio direction finder! Many ATC towers were provided with a 'Distance From Touchdown Indicator' (DFTI), a small daylight viewing CRT display showing aircraft up to 10 miles around the airport, but at Ronaldsway, if Tower wanted a range check on an inbound aircraft they had to ask Radar on the intercom. 
Traffic operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) would be integrated with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) traffic either by the radar controller or by Tower, based on the '8 mile check' and much searching through the windows! Integrating VFR Circuit traffic was down to Tower. The Direction Finder was a great help here in showing which direction to look out of the windows for your circuit and VFR joining traffic.
 The Airfield in 1991
Airfield Diagram for 1991
Apron Parking Stand Layout 1991
Airlines at Ronaldsway in the 1990s
At the start of the decade most routes to and from Ronaldsway were covered by Manx Airlines, with Jersey European operating on the
routes from Blackpool. There was a summer Saturdays only service from Prestwick by Loganair and freight services were operated
by Janes Aviation using a Short 330. The overnight mail services were covered by one of Manx Airlines three Short 360 aircraft, G-LEGS, G-ISLE or G-BKMX, converted in the evening from passenger to freight configuration and back to passenger in the morning. Other aircraft in the Manx Airlines fleet were  three BAe ATPs, G-OATP, G-UIET and G-PEEL and a single BAe 146-100 G-OJET.  Jersey European used mainly Short 360 aircraft but Fokker F27 and BAe146 aircraft were also used. An air freight service was operated by Janes Aviation, using a Short 330, with Avro 748s joining the fleet later.
Manx Airlines BAe146-100 G-OJET
Manx Airlines BAe ATP G-OATP
Manx Airlines Short 360 G-LEGS
Manx Airlines Short 360 G-BKMX
Jersey European Short 360 G-BLZT
Jersey European Fokker F27 G-JEAH
Charter flights were operated from Ronaldsway by various companies, although flights to Malta by Air Malta and Cyprus by Eurocypria were regular during the summer season.
Transavia Boeing 737-200 PH-TVR
Air Malta Boeing 737-200 9H-ABE
Eurocypria Airbus A320 5B-DBB
Sabre Airlines Boeing 737-200 G-SBEB
Radar Procedures
When I started at Ronaldsway there were two 'standard' approaches offered to inbound aircraft. For runway 27 it was radar vectors for the Instrument Landing System (ILS) but for runway 09 it was radar vectors for a Surveillance Radar Approach (SRA). As has been mentioned before, providing an SRA is quite a time consuming and time critical operation, so with an inbound 'rush' on 09 operations radar would be very busy, if possible splitting off to discrete frequency 118.2 leaving the approach controller operating on 120.85 and providing initial procedural separation before the radar controller was ready to take another aircraft. Usually it was quite possible to vector a couple of aircraft towards final whilst providing the SRA to the number one. For some reason, we never seemed to work with Radar 1 & Radar 2 positions open and no Approach procedural controller, it would have evened up the workload more.
It became somewhat harder in conditions of moderate to heavy rain. The radar was still Primary only, i.e. no SSR labels to show which 'blip' was which aircraft with each one needing identification before vectoring. The radar was subject to becoming swamped by weather returns, despite the best efforts of the controller to suppress it using circular polarization and other processing devices available on the radar control panel. It was indeed always possible to remove all of the weather returns from the display, unfortunately this usually also removed the aircraft returns! In really bad conditions the controller would use an electronic marker on the display, moved by 'x' and 'y' axis potentiometers, to retain the identity of an aircraft blip through areas of heavy weather clutter, but sometimes you just had to admit defeat, terminate the radar service and operate procedurally. 
Surveillance Radar Approach Chart, Runway 08
Radio Phraseology for Surveillance Radar Approach
(Click for full page)
Towards the latter part of the decade, after some pilots suggesting that they actually preferred the alternative NDB/DME or VOR/DME approaches available to runway 09, routine SRAs were discontinued, considerably reducing the workload of the radar controller in busy periods, SRAs were still of course available on request.
Services Outside Controlled Airspace
Whilst the main purpose of Ronaldsway ATC unit was to provide services for aircraft inbound to or outbound from Ronaldsway, a range of services were provided to other aircraft outside controlled airspace. An organised Lower Airspace Radar Service (LARS) had been established in the early 1970s using spare capacity of military airfield radar units to provide a service outside controlled airspace up to Flight Level 95. Later, some civil units were invited to join and Ronaldsway, filling an obvious gap over the northern Irish Sea, participated. A small annual sum of money was paid to the unit for providing LARS.
Services provided were either a Radar Advisory Service (RAS) or Radar Information Service (RIS). Under a Radar Advisory Service, aircraft would be identified and informed of other traffic observed on radar that was likely to pass close to their track. Advisory headings would be given with the intention of providing standard separation from the other traffic. If the other traffic was working Ronaldsway or co-ordinated with another unit this was quite easy, but many tracks would be unidentified with unknown intentions (often military fast jet traffic operating down to low levels) which could make life a little difficult! Ronaldsway had no Secondary Radar to give height information. Under a Radar Information Service, traffic information was offered to participating aircraft, but no advisory headings offered, it was up to the pilot to use the information to visually identify the other traffic and take appropriate avoiding action using the Rules of the Air for guidance as to who had 'right of way'.
Eventually, a review of LARS services was undertaken and the finance to Ronaldsway was withdrawn, the unit also vanishing from the LARS map published in various documents. In practice this made no difference to the service provided, aircraft passing by were still provided with a RIS or RAS subject to unit capacity, e.g. if a single controller was providing a series of SRAs to inbound traffic, it was unlikely the RIS or RAS would be available,
1991 Changes to Airspace Classifications
In November 1991 the UK adopted a new system for airspace classifications developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This re-classified all UK airspace into classes from A to G, Class A being the most restrictive to Class G being totally uncontrolled. The UK Airways system became Class A airspace, with no VFR flight permitted whilst the Isle of Man Control Zone and Control Areas became Class D. The Advisory Routes became Class F. In class D airspace, all flights required a Flight Plan to be submitted to ATC and a clearance obtained before entering the airspace. The Flight Plan could be either a full plan covering the entire flight, or abbreviated information just relevant to the portion within class D airspace. A full flight plan was transmitted to the destination airfield and en-route ATC agencies and for 'off airways' flights, a departure message was sent, enabling overdue action to be initiated if the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination within certain time parameters.
UK Flight Plan Form (CA48)
Used by pilots to submit a 'full' flight plan to ATC, covering the flight from point of departure to destination. An abbreviated plan could be submitted by phone 'booking out' if departing the airfield, or by radio for inbound or transit flights.
Whilst within Class D airspace, pilots had to maintain a listening watch on the appropriate radio frequency and obey ATC instructions. Flights operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) were to be separated from each other by ATC and provided with traffic information on VFR flights. Flights operating under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) were to be provided with information on pertinent traffic, pilots being responsible for avoiding other aircraft in accordance with the Rules of the Air.
Table of UK Airspace Classifications
This table is dated later than the initial introduction of ICAO airspace classification and includes subsequent changes to air traffic services provided.
ATC at Jurby Airfield - early 1990s
In the early 1990s there were still regular Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) airshows held during the summer at the former RAF Jurby. ATC facilities were provided by ATCOs normally working at Ronaldsway but on a fairly basic level, Tower control only.  ATC equipment would have consisted mainly of a VHF radio station, clock and flight progress strips. I never made it to Jurby for these early shows but was often on duty at Ronaldsway which is where any fast jet participants would be based. Ronaldsway ATC would also be very busy with visiting aircraft transiting to and from the show. The airshow didn't last very long into the 1990s but was revived in 1996 to include air racing - see below
3 RAF Hawks at Ronaldsway for the Jurby show
RAF Harrier GR5 ZD322 for the Jurby show
Jurby airfield was also active at various times during the 1990s for military exercises. The RAF would usually provide a forward base ATC controller for the various aircraft using the airfield which included C130 Hercules, Chinook, Lynx and other helicopters. Civil ATC involvement was fairly minimal with some aircraft transiting Ronaldsway's controlled airspace but most of the operations had no effect. During the exercises, Jurby was often used for night operations using Night Vision Goggles and very little lighting at the airfield.
RAF C130K Hercules XV300 on final at Jurby
RAF C130K Hercules XV300 on runway 26 at Jurby
Manx Airlines Europe
In March 1991 the Manx Airlines company was split into two operations when an operation based on Cardiff Wales airport was opened. Manx Airlines (IOM) continued the Isle of Man operation and Manx Airlines (Europe) handled the Cardiff base. Initial equipment was two BAe Jetstream 31s, G-GLAM and G-WENT but in March 1993 the first of the larger Jetstream 41s, G-WAWR was delivered, closely followed by G-WAWL, G-WAYR,  G-WAND and G-WAFT. Whilst not normally operating services from Ronaldsway initially, they visited on a regular basis for maintenance, usually arriving after normal airport closing time on a Friday evening, thus establishing the 'temporary' Friday evening hours extension which continued for many years. They would depart again on Sunday for the following week's services from Cardiff.
Manx Airlines (Europe)  Jetstream 41 G-WAWR
Manx Airlines (Europe) Jetstream 41 G-WAFT
Changes to Controlled Airspace
By 1994 there were some changes to the controlled airspace around the Isle of Man. The main airway passing over the island had been renamed 'Blue Three', the name changing to 'Bravo Three' with the dropping of the colour code system for naming airways. The Advisory Route (ADR) from Blackpool to Carnane had been abolished and the ADR from Pole Hill to Carnane re-routed to the 'IOM' VOR/DME and renamed 'Whiskey Two Delta', thus all airways routes over the island now went via the 'IOM'. The Eskmeals gunnery Danger Area 'D406' had expanded once more with the addition of 'D406C', coming much closer to the Isle of Man. This required the eastern extremity of the Isle of Man Control Zone to be reduced in size to provide a 'free lane' of uncontrolled airspace between the zone and danger area. In compensation an extra fillet of Control Area to the south east was provided, making vectoring for the runway 27 ILS easier. 
The 'free lane' was heavily used by military aircraft in transit to and from the bombing range at RAF Jurby Head, commonly USAF F111 aircraft at medium to low altitudes, but as the aircraft never contacted Ronaldsway ATC (USAF aircraft were unable to as they had no VHF radios), it was difficult to pass any meaningful traffic information to aircraft inbound to or departing the Control Zone. Ronaldsway radar could see the 'blips' of the range aircraft but had no way of determining altitude.  When the Jurby Range closed in 1993 the problem was resolved. 
Four new Reporting points were established for Ronaldsway's use, with holds being published for SLYDA, VANIN and KELLY. With the Carnane NDB no longer required for en-route traffic, ownership was transferred from the CAA to the Isle of Man Government as it was very useful to Ronaldsway for holding training traffic and almost essential to avoid delays when operating without radar,
Northern Irish Sea Airways Chart - 1994
Isle of Man area Airways Chart - 1994
Air Freight and Mail Services
In 1993 Janes was renamed Emerald Airways and started to expand their fleet with Avro 748s acquired from various other operators. Emerald had their own colour scheme but may of the aircraft were painted to represent customers.  Some remained more or less in the colours of their previous operators. At one time there were three Emerald 748s arriving soon after airport opening time, one with the mail and two general freighters. As the aircraft then day stopped at Ronaldsway before departing again in the evening, Emerald carried out a lot of their pilot training at Ronaldsway, indeed ATC had two standard training flight profiles and the training captain just had to ring up, give a departure time and profile to be flown.
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-BEJE
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-ATMJ
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-AYYG
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-BVOU
The mail contract came up for renewal on a regular basis and there was stiff competition between airlines to win it. At various time during the 1990s it was operated by Manx Airlines, Gill Air, BAC Express and Emerald.
Gill Airways Short 360 G-DASI
BAC Express Short 360 G-OBOH
Comed Aviation
Blackpool based Comed Aviation started services linking Blackpool, the Isle of Man and Belfast in the early 1990s Initially using 9 seat Piper Navajo aircraft, they expanded with the 19 seat Embraer Bandeirante
Comed Aviation Bandeirante G-OBPL
New BAe 146s for Manx Airlines
In March 1993 a new 146 arrived fro Manx Airlines. This was 200 series G-MIMA which was to give excellent service on the London Heathrow (later Gatwick) route for many years until sold in 2005. In May 1994 another 200 series was acquired, this was G-MANS and primarily to be used on Manx Airlines Europe services from Belfast City.
Manx Airlines BAe 146-200 G-MIMA
Manx Airlines BAe 146-200 G-MANS
New Denro Communications System Installed
In the early 1990s the largely 'home made' radio and telephone communications system in use was badly in need of replacement and a system manufactured by the Denro company of the USA was selected. This was a major improvement over the previous system using miniature illuminated buttons for control of radio frequencies and telephones. Headsets, which had not previously been widely used at Ronaldsway, were required at controller positions. Unfortunately the system displayed some major operational shortcomings which made it unsuitable for ATC and had to be replaced before the end of the decade.
Ronaldsway Tower with 'Denro' Communications
Tower Control Desk with 'Denro' Comms
Airfield Lighting Controls Updated
Also in need of replacement in the 1990s was the airfield lighting control system. At the start of the decade the lights were operated from a large panel to the left of the tower controller's position. Lights were selected using large metal 'up and over' switches with intensities varied by circular controls. Runway in use was selected by a central 'QFU' switch. As the airfield lighting had changed over the years, extra switch panels had been added which made lighting selection somewhat complicated. The system was replaced by a smaller 'push button' panel initially installed in a wooden cabinet. Provision was incorporated for taxiway 'stop-bars' although they were not to be installed on the airfield until after this panel had been replaced.
Lighting Control panel at the start of the 1990s
Replacement Lighting Panel on test
The Teleprinter section closed and Flight Briefing Office Established
During the first half of the decade, the Teleprinter section on the ground floor of the control tower was closed. The airport telephone exchange was updated and moved to the information desk located in the newly extended terminal building. The teleprinters moved initially to a new Flight Briefing office making use of a corner in the Met Office on the first floor. The Specialist Teleprinter Operators retrained as ATC Assistants and the assistants learned how to operate the teleprinters, ATSAs manning both ATC and the Briefing Office. With the introduction of more modern computer systems for sending signals over the Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network, the Briefing Office was moved 'landside', occupying three different locations in the terminal building before eventually being closed down and all staff relocating to the control tower.
 Two views of the Visual Control room with the original 1960s Control Desks - pictures taken early 1995
 Military Aircraft at Ronaldsway in the 1990s
Military aircraft were frequent visitors to Ronaldsway, the RAF Hawk T1 jet trainers from RAF Valley in Anglesey on an almost daily basis as Ronaldsway was often their nominated diversion airfield if they were unable to land back at Valley for any reason. The Search and Rescue Westland Wessex helicopters would visit regularly for refuelling, changing over the the Westland Sea Kings during the decade. Army Air Corps fixed wing Islanders and helicopters would also stop at Ronaldsway regularly. During the TT period, the RAF Red Arrows Hawk aircraft would be based at Ronaldsway for displays at Douglas, Peel and Ramsey, also operating out of Ronaldsway for displays in Northern Ireland. 
RAF Tucano T1 ZF410 + 3
 French Navy Falcon 10  32
RAF Search & Rescue Wessex XR520
RAF Hawk T1A XX331
Army Air Corps BN Islander AL1 ZG844
Royal Navy Sea King ZD633
More ATPs & Jetstream 41s from Loganair
In 1994 Manx Airlines took over several routes from Scottish operator Loganair, who were also part of the Airlines of Britain group. These came with 8 BAe ATPs and 3 Jetstream 41s, which initially continued in Loganair colour scheme but with 'Manx' titles and were a common sight at Ronaldsway. Eventually they were all pained in Manx Airlines colours and the whole fleet was re-registered, the ATPs in the G-MANA series and the Jetstream 41s in the G-MAJA series. This included the original Manx Airlines aircraft.
Former Loganair ATP G-LOGG
Former Loganair Jetstream 41 G-LOGK
Saab 340s on the Glasgow Route
For a while the route between the Isle of Man and Glasgow was operated by Business Air on behalf of Manx Airlines, but often the aircraft used were from Swedish company Skyways, who operated on some routes for Business Air
Business Air Saab 340 G-GNTC
Skyways Saab 340 SE-KRN
Knight Air
Knight Air operated services between Leeds Bradford Airport and Ronaldsway in the mid 1990s using Embraer Bandeirante Aircraft. After a fatal crash involving one of their aircraft in May 1995 they withdrew from the airline business to concentrate on pilot training and aircraft maintenance.
Knight Air Bandeirante G-OEAA
New Radar, colour radar displays and new Tower Desk
By late 1994 the original Plessey AR-1/AR-15 was becoming obsolete and costing more to maintain, so it was decided to replace it with a completely new system. Two potential products were considered for the radar and two for the new displays required. For the Primary Radar the choice was between the Marconi S511 and the Plessey Watchman, both 10 cm radars. For the displays, the contenders were colour CRT systems supplied by Norcontrol and Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL). Visits were made by ATC control and engineering staff to Leeds/Bradford and to Newcastle to compare the systems in use at those airports and the decision was made to order the Plessey Watchman Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR) together with the FRL colour displays. Consideration was made over ordering a Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) system to be installed at the same time but finance was not available and it was decided that SSR would be installed at a later date. Included in the FRL display system was an Aerodrome Traffic Monitor (ATM), for the first time at Ronaldsway the tower controller would be able to see the location of aircraft in the vicinity of the airfield that were not visible through the windows.
Ronaldsway ATC Visit to Leeds/Bradford & Newcastle in 1994
In 1995 the new radar was shipped to and installed at Ronaldsway. A new site for the radar aerial and transmit/receive equipment was selected on the south side of the airport adjacent to the fire station and a metal gantry erected to support the radar scanner aerial. The radar information was transferred to the control tower building and a new radar control panel installed on top of the 1980s metal radar desks. It proved just possible to shoehorn the large Barco colour displays into the old desk, mounted on wheeled trolleys to facilitate maintenance. The radar came into operation very quickly, being installed between March and April 1995 with flight trials on two days in May before being brought into operation ahead of schedule by the start of June.
Plessey Watchman Primary Radar Aerial
Barco/FRL Colour Radar Displays Installed
Pictures taken during the commissioning trials of the Watchman PSR
Watchman/FRL Radar Picture
Unprocessed Video
Watchman FRL Radar Picture
Normal Mode
Watchman/FRL Radar Picture
NR Inhibit Mode
In the Visual Control Room, the wooden desks dating from 1960 were totally unsuitable for accommodating all of the new equipment coming into use and so were replaced by a new design of metal desk, seating the Tower controller and assistant alongside each other for the first time. The new desks were supplied by the manufacturer as a kit of self assembly parts (flat pack ATC!) and were constructed in the VCR whilst normal ATC operations carried on from what remained of the old wooden desks.
 VCR Reconstruction in 1995
 The new Tower Desk in use
The Watchman radar had been installed and commissioned in the nick of time. Just before the busy 1995 TT race week, the gearbox of the Plessey AR-1 radar failed completely. Fortunately, all of the flight testing of the new radar had been completed and with the help of the UK CAA the paperwork for the new system was rushed though and controllers issued with dispensations for a month to operate the new equipment pending formal validations. Without the radar in service it would have been impossible to handle the traffic and probably would have resulted in Ronaldsway being closed to private aircraft movements for the duration of the TT. The new colour radar displays were in fact very easy to use and the Watchman radar itself needed far fewer controller adjustments than the old AR-1 to maintain a good picture. Actual ATC operating procedures remained the same as before with aircraft needing radar identification by turn, position or handover method. When radar passed the '8 mile check' to tower, the aerodrome controller was now able to monitor the progress of aircraft using the ATM, integrating visual circuit traffic with inbound IFR aircraft had suddenly become a whole lot easier!
The AR-1 Aerial Removed
Pictured after being lifted off the control tower
Air Traffic Control on a TT  Race Day
On four days of each year ATC was totally transformed as vast numbers of spectators arrived to watch the TT races. Airlines put on extra services, charter flights arrived, but the biggest headache for ATC were the hundreds of light aircraft that would try to arrive at Ronaldsway over a short space of time. There was no ATC flow control measures and pilots arrived when it suited them, which was generally in a very narrow 'window' of about three to four hours.
A large number of the pilots seemed to be low hours private pilots who didn't really understand how air traffic control worked and most of them didn't bother to file a Flight Plan so ATC had no prior knowledge of flight details. Approach Radar Control would be staffed by three ATCOs and one ATSA. Before Secondary Radar was installed in 1998 the first indications of the arriving hordes would be numerous primary radar blips observed heading towards the island from England and Wales, light aircraft from Northern Ireland (a large percentage of the total) would normally by flying low and beneath our radar coverage in that direction. Some pilots would call on the radio up to 60 miles away, some wouldn't bother until approaching the Control Zone!
The Approach Procedural Controller would try and get the flight details of each aircraft as it called and between him and the assistant write out flight progress strips. The approach assistant would pass details to the tower assistant. Leaning over the adjacent radar display, the approach controller would attempt to identify each aircraft before transferring control to the Radar One controller. Radar One would then clear the aircraft into the zone, pass traffic information on other aircraft close by and try and stream the aircraft into some sort of landing order. As the aircraft came within about 15 miles of the airfield he would transfer control to the Radar Two controller who would attempt to sequence the aircraft into a final landing order and integrate with the scheduled and charter flights arriving via the airways system. As there were no 'standing agreements' with Area Control, each airways arrival had to be individually co-ordinated and released by phone between the Radar One controller and the area controller at Manchester Centre. Also the Radar Two Controller had to telephone Tower every few minutes to pass the landing order of aircraft.
The Procedural Approach position was easily swamped by numerous aircraft calling and trying to pass their details and on one year the whole ATC system effectively broke down for a while and airways traffic was held off or prevented from departing whilst Ronaldsway tried to sort out who was where and clear them into the zone. In following years, flow control measures were introduced and Flight Plans strongly advised! Once Secondary Radar was available at Ronaldsway from 1998 things became somewhat simpler, although the flow control was still needed to avoid bunching of arriving aircraft.
A typical TT Race Day at Ronaldsway
1995 - The British Airways franchise starts
From January 1995 Manx Airlines Europe became a British Airways franchise operation. Whilst this did not directly affect the Manx Airlines (IOM) services in terms of day to day operations, aircraft started to be re-liveried into BA colours although with an 'Operated by Manx Airlines Europe' sticker prominently displayed on the nose. BA liveried aircraft would operate on the Isle of Man routes to cover non availability of the Manx Airlines Aircraft.
Manx Airlines (Europe) BAe 146-200 G-MANS
Manx Airlines (Europe) BAe Jetstream 41 G-MAJJ
Manx Airlines Europe logo on G-MANS
Manx Airlines (Europe) BAe ATP G-MANH
1996 - Emerald Airways Passenger Services
Emerald Airways started to operate passenger services on the popular Liverpool route from Ronaldsway in direct competition with Manx Airlines on the 29th April, using some of the newer Avro 748 airframes in the fleet. The passenger services were finally stopped in March 1999 and Emerald reverted to operating only freight services until recommencing Isle of Man passenger services in 2004. 
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-BGMO
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-EMRD
1996 - British Regional Airlines formed
In 1996 Manx Airlines bought Aberdeen based Business Air and then later merged with Loganair to form British Regional Airlines, operating under the British Airways franchise agreement. This brought Saab 340s and another 146 into the fleet from Business Air and Islanders, Short 360s (some ex Manx Airlines) and a Twin Otter from Loganair. Manx Airlines continued to operate as a separate company under the overall BRAL leadership. After a short period of time it was decided that Scottish islands services of Loganair would operate more efficiently as a separate concern and following a management buyout they separated from the BRAL group in March 1997 although continuing as a BA franchise operator.
British Regional Airlines BAe ATP G-MANH
British Regional Airlines logo on G-MANH
 As a result of the various associations between Loganair and Manx Airlines, aircraft moved in both directions between companies, resulting in some ex Manx Airlines aircraft operating with Loganair. The Short 360 was even operated on the route from Glasgow to the beach airfield at Barra. It was not a success, often being cancelled and the route eventually reverted to Twin Otter operation, much to the relief of the Barra inhabitants.
Loganair Short 360 G-WACK
Loganair Short 360 G-ISLE
ATC at Jurby - 1996
In 1996 the Jurby Airshow was resurrected, as a three day event to include traditional air racing, initially to the island from the UK on the Friday and then local air races on the Saturday morning with an airshow on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On the Friday, ATCOs from Ronaldsway provided an Air Ground Radio service (very difficult to remember no to clear aircraft to land or take-off!) but for the airshow days an Aerodrome service was provided. ATC facilities were very basic, with a table provided in the otherwise empty control tower to accommodate a flight progress strip display, VHF radio for ground to air communication and UHF radio for communicating with the fire and rescue service. On the first day the VHF base station and aerial combination proved to have a range of about 2 miles from the airfield and was replaced by a hand held transceiver linked to an aerial designed for use on a vehicle but magnetic mounted on the railings above the control room, on which we found that we could talk to aircraft crossing the Cumbrian coast! For the airshow days the problems were resolved and we were able to use the proper base station. Other equipment comprised a clock, signalling lamp and a very pistol which was mainly used for bird scaring but with a couple of red and green cartridges for emergency use.
Jurby Aerodrome Chart for 1996
An Aerodrome Traffic Zone was established when the ATC unit was NOTAMed as active, out to 1.5nm from the airfield boundary up to 2000ft and any aircraft wishing to enter had to contact Jurby Tower by radio. I believe that for this show we just used one of Ronaldsway's allocated frequencies, so it would have been 125.3 or 118.2. A standard circuit pattern was used, at altitude 1000ft, left hand on runway 26 and right hand on runway 08. This was purely to try and keep aircraft within sight of ATC, as there were no windows in the rear wall of the control room so any aircraft to the north of the airfield could not be seen.  Only an Aerodrome Control Service was provided, there were no instrument approaches or radio aids available.  Aircraft would call up to join, be given the runway in use, circuit direction, QFE and any relevant traffic information. A there was no anemometer installed st Jurby, the wind speed would be assessed at regular intervals by the Met observer from the roof of the tower.  In theory, overhead joins should have been the norm, but I think in practice aircraft joined the circuit from the direction they arrived.  Runway 16/34 was not available for use as it was used for parking aircraft. 
Normal ATC services were suspended during the air races, an Air - Ground radio service being provided (by the same controllers) instead.  To facilitate this any controller working at Jurby had a separate A/G Radio Operators certificate in addition to the Jurby Tower validation on our ATCO licenses.
Air Racing at Jurby
Air Racing at Jurby
Jurby Control Tower
Jurby Air Traffic Control - 1996
The racing and airshows were very popular but were not to be repeated until the early 2000s
1997 - The Embraer 145s for British Regional start to arrive at Ronaldsway
After evaluating several options for new aircraft, British Regional Airlines opted for the 50 seat Embraer ERJ145 and the first one arrived at Ronaldsway in June 1997 still wearing its Brazilian flight test registration of PT-SYM as the type was not yet certificated in the UK. By mid July the formalities had been completed and it was re-registered as G-EMBA. This was probably the first aircraft to be seen at Ronaldsway wearing one of the new British Airways 'World' colour schemes and as each delivery up to G-EMBK arrived it was interesting to see which variation it would carry. From G-EMBL all further aircraft were panted in the BA 'Chatham' flag colour scheme. Each aircraft arrived at Ronaldsway from Brazil via Portugal for commissioning before leaving for a UK base. By the end of the decade, a total of 14 had arrived taking registrations up to G-EMBN.
British Regional Embraer ERJ145 PT-SYM
British Regional Embraer ERJ145 G-EMBC
British Regional Embraer ERJ145 G-EMBJ
British Regional Embraer ERJ145 G-EMBL
Manx Airlines 15/50
In 1997 Manx Airlines celebrated its 15 birthday and this co-incided with the 50th anniversary of the original Manx Airlines being formed in 1947.  There were various celebrations and a special logo designed, although I seen to remember it only appeared boldly on one aircraft, white liveried G-BUUP.  There was an airshow organised at Ronaldsway which took place on a Saturday afternoon, when there were few scheduled airline movements.  I don't seem to have any pictures of the show despite being designated airshow Tower controller, probably because I was suffering from a throat infection and only just lasted through the show before retiring sick with no voice!
Manx Airlines 15/50 Logo
Manx Airlines ATP G-BUUP with the 15/50 logo
1998 - Secondary Surveillance Radar Installed
In 1998 a Cossor Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) system was added, introducing a second radar aerial on top of the Watchman. Unlike Primary Radar that works by receiving reflected radar energy pulses from 'targets', SSR works by interrogating radar transponders fitted to aircraft. Each flight is allocated a unique four digit code from a total pool of 4096 and the transponder responds to interrogation by ground radars by returning the code (Mode Alpha), usually also with the aircraft's level (Mode Charlie). This information is displayed alongside the primary radar 'blip' on the radar display. Aircraft could now be identified by the SSR return, removing the former laborious process of identifying each aircraft on the PSR. Combined with the Code/Callsign conversion computer, the aircraft radio callsigns were now shown on the radar display. 
One of the major advantages of SSR over just Primary radar was that the controller now no longer had to remember which 'blip' was which aircraft and with the continuous 'Mode C' height readout could anticipate the need for further descent of climb clearances saving the airlines fuel wasting 'level offs' or pilots having to ask over the radio.  Without the SSR radio workload was considerably increased when climbing or descending an aircraft through the level of another with regular level checks being required, now the controller just had to monitor the levels on the radar display.  One other big advantage was when providing radar services outside controlled airspace, if a potentially conflicting aircraft was suitably equipped Ronaldsway could at last determine its altitude or flight level and from the 'Squawk' code displayed know which other ATC unit in the area was controlling it. With several very busy high level routes passing the Isle of Man this could save on a lot of unnecessary traffic information or avoiding action being passed.
 Ronaldsway Combined PSR/SSR Radar Aerials
 Introduction of SSR was a major advance and led to a reduction in the amount of co-ordination between Radar and Tower, considerably cutting the number of telephone or intercom calls needed. As the SSR information was also displayed in the tower on the Aerodrome Traffic Monitor (ATM) the '8 mile checks' required on all aircraft before could now be omitted in most cases. 
With regulated fatigue breaks now being mandated for controllers, staffing in the Radar room tended to be just a radar controller and assistant, the third controller on watch providing breaks for the other two whilst being available to open the 'Radar Two' position if busy traffic or the need for Surveillance Radar Approaches warranted it. The assistants also had other duties such as airfield inspections and bird scaring, which meant that often the radar controller was working on his own.
 FRL Radar Display with SSR
Radar Vectoring Configuration
Surveillance Radar Approach Configuration
Changes on the Airfield
All airfield runways are numbered according to the Magnetic Heading rounded to two digits. As the magnetic variation changes over the years, at some point it becomes necessary to change the runway designations and by 1998 when the chart below was published, Ronaldsway's had all been renumbered. The east parking apron apron had been expanded to produce two more stands and the overall apron layout has also been changed to 'nose-in' parking. Aircraft now had to be pushed back off stand by a tug, although most of Manx Airlines turboprops were permitted to 'power-back' off the stand by using reverse thrust.  Eye protection and ear defenders being a pre-requisite for the ground staff involved. Noise levels also rose somewhat inside the tower!
1998 Jeppesen Airfield Diagram
Showing the new Runway Designators & Stand Layout
New Manx Airlines Livery Introduced
In 1998 a new livery appeared on 146 G-MIMA, bearing some similarities to the British Airways 'World' liveries, but using a green and red ' 3 legs' design. 
The three 'Manx' ATPs (G-MANA, B, & C) and Jetstream 41 G-MAJA were subsequently all painted in the scheme
Manx Airlines BAe146-200 G-MIMA
Manx Airlines BAe ATP G-MANA
Manx Airlines BAe Jetstream 41 G-MAJA
Manx Tails - G-MIMA and G-MANC
1999 - New aircraft for Jersey European
Jersey European started to update their fleet in 1999 with the arrival of the De-Havilland Canada Dash8 turboprop. The first two aircraft in the fleet, 300 series G-JEDA & G-JEDB came second hand but following aircraft were new 'Q' series aircraft, comprising four Q300s, G-JEDC - DF and three of the smaller Q200s G-JEDX - DZ. The gap in the registration sequence being filled by Q400s from 2001 onwards.
Jersey European Dash8 G-JEDA
Jersey European Dash8s G-JEDX & G-JEDE
Frequentis Communications System installed at Ronaldsway
The Denro communications system that had been used since the early 1990s had proved unsatisfactory, with control panel 'lockups' and radio frequencies being selected and de-selected by the system without controller interaction. Attempts by the manufacturer to resolve the issue had failed to achieve required objectives and so the decision was taken to replace the whole system with a Frequentis design. This used a touch screen panel to select telephone lines and radio frequencies and proved highly satisfactory in service, only being replaced (by another Frequentis system) with the move to the new control tower.
Frequentis Communications Screen
Touch sensitive screen for radio and telephone communications
Radar Room with Frequentis Comms
Tower Desk with Frequentis Comms
Jurby Remote Radio Station
In the mid 1990s it had been identified that there was a problem with Ronaldsway communicating with aircraft over the northern plain of the island and approaching the Isle of Man control zone boundary from the north at lower levels. Towards the end of the decade an attempt was made to resolve this by establishing an experimental remote radio station at the Jurby airfield control tower. Operating in conjunction with the main transmitter/receiver at Ronaldsway, the relay station was selected via the Frequentis control panel in the radar room, the intention being that both stations would normally be selected to operate at the same time giving solid radio coverage all around the island. For this purpose the Ronaldsway transmit frequency was offset to 120.855 MHz, Jurby operating on 120.850 Mhz to avoid mutual interference from the two transmitters.
Jurby Control Tower
Jurby TX/RX Selector on Comms Panel
Whilst the station itself was a success, giving excellent coverage over the north of the island, some technical difficulties were found with certain individual aircraft radio stations when both transmitters were operating together. This was probably because the Jurby transmitter was an old piece of equipment and not modified with a frequency offset (to 120.845) as with normal practice when using a two transmitter ATC system.  This combined with other unforeseen issues over backup equipment and off-air radio recording demanded by regulations caused the experiment to be abandoned due to increased costs and the station was subsequently removed.
The 1990s had been a decade of major change at Ronaldsway. At the start, little had changed since the installation of radar in the 1960s and the unit a decidedly 'vintage' look about it. At the end of the decade it was as modern as any, with a new and reliable communications system, new Primary Radar and Secondary Surveillance Radar system installed. Computer systems were processing Flight Plans and providing aircraft callsign labels on the radar.
 ATC in the 2000s
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