Isle of Man ATC in the 2000s
 
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The New Millennium
 
Ronaldsway Air Traffic entered the new millennium working in a wartime building over 50 years old, but with modern equipment - a Plessey Watchman PSR with  Cossor SSR radar, Frequentis communications and Stonefield Flight Processing system.  Plans were already afoot that by the end of the decade would end up with major changes to the airfield layout, but started with a section of new taxiway, that mainly duplicated the existing Northern taxiway.  Most airline routes were covered by Manx Airlines and Jersey European with Aer Arann operating from Dublin and Comed Aviation from Blackpool, Emerald Airways covered air freight and mail operations.
 
Ronaldsway airlines at the start of the 2000s
 
Manx Airlines 146-200 G-MIMA arriving from Heathrow, July 2000
 
Manx Airlines ATP G-MANA in August 2000
 
Jersey European BAe 146-200 G-JEAK in February 2000
 
Manx Airlines Jetstream 41 G-MAJA in August 2000
 
Jersey European Dash8-Q300 G-JEDE in February 2000
 
Aer Arann Short 360 EI-BPD in August 2000
 
Emerald Airways Avro 748 G-BVOV in August 2000
Comed Aviation Bandeirante PH-FVA in June 2000
 
 
Manx Airlines/British Regional Maintenance
 
British Regional Airlines, Manx Airlines parent company, had a major engineering base on the airfield, servicing their fleet of BAe 146, ATP, Jetstream 41 and ERJ145 Aircraft. At the start of the decade, deliveries of new Embraer 145s to British Regional were just over half way through the total order of 23, all aircraft being delivered initially to Ronaldsway from Brazil before entering service at UK bases. Most aircraft in the fleet visited on a regular basis.
 
BRAL Embraer 145 G-EMBP - on delivery in August 2000
Embraer ERJ145 G-EMBS - on delivery in December 2000
 
Airline changes 2000 - 2014
 
The Isle of Man Government has an 'Open Skies' policy, i.e. any airline that wants to start or stop services to or from the Isle of Man is free to do so without government interference.  From a fairly stable airline situation through the 1990s to the start of the 2000s, this has resulted in numerous changes to the operators at Ronaldsway. 
To avoid overcrowding this ATC History page, I have created a separate section to try and follow the changing airline scene up to 2014.
 
Isle of Man Airline Operators in the 2000s
 

Ronaldsway Airfield Alterations
 
The first stage of a major airport construction project started when a new taxiway was built linking the old 'Central' taxiway with the 'Northern' taxiway, crossing runways 17/35 and 21/03. All of the taxiways were re-designated at this time, the new taxiway becoming 'Taxiway Alpha'. From an ATC point of view the new section didn't offer many advantages over the old layout and the 'Northern Taxiway' remained very much in use until a management decision to obstruct the section east of runway 21 so only vehicles could use it. This hasn't stopped aircraft taking it by mistake and even in recent years more than one aircraft has had to be pushed back out of the resulting cul-de-sac by a tug!
 
This was, however, just the initial stage of a much larger project which would see the runways lengthened and the taxiways reaching the end of the runways, enabling departing aircraft to line up directly, rather than the time wasting 'backtrack' that had been required before. On the taxiways, red 'Stop Bars' were introduced at holding points to protect the runways during night and low visibility operations. Previously the green taxiway centreline lights ran past the holding points and onto the runways, but with the new system, when the Stop Bars were selected on a line of red lights would appear across the taxiway at the holding point and the green centreline lights beyond were suppressed. The Stop Bars defaulted to 'on' and were switched from a revised lighting control panel in ATC.
 
 
Ronaldsway Airport Diagram 2002
 
Initial stage of 'Taxiway Alpha' has been constructed
linking 'Taxiway Charlie' and into the old 'Northern' taxiway, the remaining section becoming 'Echo'
 
 
 New Instrument Landing System installed for Runway 08
 
Over the years there had been discussion as to whether it was feasible to install an ILS to serve runway 08. The main problem was that there was no space at the end of the runway to install the Localizer aerial in the usual location. Following a report on two serious incidents and one accident occurring to aircraft making approaches to runway 08 using the 'IOM' VOR/DME procedure it was decided that an ILS could be provided for the runway but using an 'Offset Localizer'. This was common practice at military airfields where there was usually a 'stop end crash barrier' at the end of the runway, but more unusual at civil airports. The Localizer was situated to the south of runway 26/08 with its beam angled across the runway by 3 degrees, the Glideslope aerial being conveniently located on the right hand side of the runway abeam the touchdown point. In association with the project, the 'RWY' Non Directional beacon (NDB) was moved from its previous location at the eastern boundary of the airfield to a more central location on the south side of the airfield adjacent to taxiway Charlie. The Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) that had served the runway 26 ILS was moved a short distance from the VHF Direction Finding site to be adjacent to the 'RWY' NDB. The reason for this was that it was then equidistant from the two ILS systems and could serve either, the morse identification being changed to reflect the actual ILS in use, I-RY for runway 26 and I-RH for runway 08.
 
Ronaldsway Runway 08 Offset Localizer
 
Runway 08 Offset ILS/DME Approach
 
Approach Procedure plan view showing the offset Final Approach Track of 087 degrees
 Click for full Chart
 Runway 08 Offset ILS/DME Approach
 
Vertical profile of the Approach Procedure. Normal practice was for Radar to vector aircraft onto a closing heading for the Localizer.
 
The Offset ILS Approach Runway 08
 Using Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Real Air Beech Duke to demonstrate the offset ILS approach
Establishing on Localizer and Glideslope at 6 miles from touchdown
Showing Localizer offset from the runway at 2.7 miles from touchdown
 
 
The Visual Control Room Rebuilt in 2001
 
The metal tower desk built in 1995 had proved difficult to adapt to new equipment requirements and so was replaced in 2001 with a new one of wooden construction. Unlike in 1995 it was decided that ATC needed to move out whilst the work was undertaken and so a temporary Visual Control position was built on the second floor of the control tower, in an annexe to the main telecommunications equipment room. Although the main airfield could be seen adequately, to view the parking aprons needed installation of  CCTV monitors using the airfield security camera system.
Temporary Visual Control Room 2001
New Visual Control Room desk under construction
 
The new Visual Control Room desk
A night photo of the new wooden desk
 
 
Visual Control Room Equipment
Controller Workstation
Airfield Lighting Control Panel
Tower Assistant Workstation
 
Also installed at this time was 'ATIS' - Automatic Terminal Information Service. This transmitted airfield information on a discrete frequency of 123.875 Mhz including the latest weather report, runway in use and any other pertinent airfield information, e.g. navigation aid unservicabilities. With a stream of inbound aircraft, the ATIS saved considerable radio time in reading out the weather to each aircraft as it came on frequency. The broadcast was prepared by the ATC Assistant on a computer terminal and was compiled by the program using a 'text to speech' technique before being broadcast.
 
The Briefing Office in the terminal building had become an unmanned unit with all ATC staff now working in the control tower. Pilots could fax flight plans to ATC from there and they were then entered into the computer system which disseminated them to other ATC units via the Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) and printed the Flight Progress strips in Tower and Approach
 
 
British Military Aircraft at Ronaldsway
 
Ronaldsway has always been visited on a regular basis by UK military aircraft, usually on training flights, but as the picture of the RAF Hawk illustrates (click for details) 
sometimes diverting in with minor or major emergencies. Ronaldsway is often nominated as diversion airfield for the Hawk aircraft from RAF Valley.
RAF 208 Sqn Hawk after diverting into Ronaldsway
 
RAF Kinloss Wing Nimrod MR2
 
Army Air Corps BN2T Turbine Islander
Royal Navy Sea King 'Navy 707'
 
 
The VHF Direction Finder
 
The very first navigation aid installed at Ronaldsway in the 1930s was a Medium Frequency Radio Direction Finder. This and the VHF Direction Finders that followed from the late 1940s were extensively used both for providing approaches to aircraft and for ATC to obtain information on aircraft locations and assist in identifying aircraft on radar. By the 2000s VDF Approaches had long since ceased and with the coming of SSR radar to Ronaldsway in 1998 the D/F tended to be less of an essential tool and was out of service for long periods of time.
 
However, if the radar was not available for any reason and Approach was operating procedurally, the D/F came into its own and with every aircraft transmission giving a bearing, it was much easier to keep track of aircraft locations 'in the pattern' and for ascertaining the initial direction of approach for inbound aircraft. GPS had not yet come into general use and with a long over water stretch, light aircraft with relatively poor radio navigation aids (or indeed, no radio navigation aids!) could sometimes approach the island from surprising directions. Indeed, I remember being told stories of light aircraft pilots actually missing the island completely in poor weather and having to be given QDMs (D/F based magnetic bearing) to the airfield. Even with radar it was sometimes preferable to give a light aircraft QDMs rather than a radar heading which could take them into cloud.
 
VHF Radio Direction Finding Aerial
VHF Radio Direction Finding Display
 
 
Non Directional Beacons
 
Another navigation aid originating in the 1930s, NDBs still provided an important service in the 2000s. The ground beacon operated in the Medium Frequency range and radiated a uniform signal in all directions, hence 'Non Directional'. The aircraft equipment required was the Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) which in its simplest form shows the relative bearing of the beacon from the aircraft. There were two NDBs associated with Ronaldsway, the 'RWY' located on the airport and the 'CAR' at Carnane just to the south of Douglas. The beacons identified themselves by transmitting the three letter designator in morse code and pilots, after tuning in the beacon, had to listen to the morse 'ident' to confirm the correct beacon was being received before using it for navigation. Most of the procedural instrument approaches to Ronaldsway were based on the 'RWY' NDB, either using the beacon for the complete approach or as a starting point for an Instrument Landing System approach.
 
Instrument Approach Chart
NDB/DME Approach Runway 26
 
Chart from 2002, click for full size
 
The 'CAR' beacon was originally an en-route aid associated with the Advisory Routes (ADRs) approaching the island from the east. When these were re-aligned to the 'IOM' VOR/DME, Ronaldsway took on the beacon as a local aid, being particularly handy in non-radar situations as it enabled some very useful procedural separations between departing and arriving aircraft. The holding patterns at 'CAR and 'IOM' were procedurally separated enabling an aircraft to be climbed or descended through the level of another in the other hold if required. Carnane was also a very useful location to hold training aircraft 'out of the way' to avoid delaying scheduled movements.
 
Ronaldsway NDB  'RWY' on 359 KHz
Carnane NDB  'CAR' on 366.5 KHz
 
 
Approach Plate for Runway 26 ILS showing the use of the two NDBs for initial positioning
 
Basic ADF aircraft instrument
(on left side of picture)
 
The needle 'points to' the NDB. Compass rose can be fixed with north at the top, giving a relative bearing to the beacon, or as in this case be manually rotated to align with the aircraft heading to give the actual bearing of the beacon from the aircraft.
 
 
 
ATC at Jurby 2002 - 2004
 
The 1996 format for airshows at Jurby was repeated in 2002, 2003 & 2004. Comprising a three day event with air racing aircraft arriving on the Friday in a race to the Isle of Man from the UK, with closed circuit racing on the Saturday and Sunday mornings followed by an airshow in the afternoon. For the 2002 event, controllers from Ronaldsway provided an Air/Ground radio service for the air races on all three days, but for the 2003 and 2004 events the organizers provided the A/G race radio with controllers from Ronaldsway providing a Tower ATC service outside race times on Saturday and Sunday.  A special Manual of Air Traffic Services was produced for Jurby and controllers had Aerodrome Control Validations in their licenses. For continuity and training purposes the same controllers generally worked the air shows on all three years.  In 2004 we started giving some prospective future Jurby controllers 'work experience' there but there were to be no further airshows.
 
Jurby Radio - Operator's Certificate
Jurby Tower ATC Competence  2002
Jurby Tower ATC Competence 2003 - 2004
 
As for the previous displays, the airfield could be operated in one of two modes - with the Sandygate Road open to traffic the main runway 25/07 was shortened with a physical length of 1,164m, but for the airshow the road was closed and the full length of 1,463m became available, allowing larger and jet aircraft to operate from the runway. The shorter cross runway was closed and used for parking aircraft.
 
Ops with the Sandygate Road Open
Jurby Ops with the Sandygate Road Closed
 
Air Traffic Control facilities were basic to say the least, with a table provided in the control room of the WW2 RAF control tower. A VHF radio base station operated through a roof mounted aerial using temporary frequency 121.175 MHz, with radio communications to vehicles operating on the airfield being via hand held UHF radios. Other essentials for an ATC service were a telephone, clock, logbooks and a Flight Progress Board. Latterly a fax machine was provided, initially on the ground floor but for 2004 re-located to the end of the ATC desk where it was of much more use. Other desks were provided for a Met Observer and the Flying Display Director, the latter having operational control over the flying display and ultimate control over who could fly and who could not.
 
Jurby ATC - July 2003
Jurby Control Room - August 2004
Jurby ATC Desk - August 2004
 
ATC at Jurby ran to a fairly predictable pattern with the airfield and ATC opening in the morning to allow visiting aircraft and participants to arrive and park. Aircraft would ideally call about 10 minutes before arriving and be informed of the surface wind, runway in use, circuit direction and airfield QFE (altimeter pressure setting). In theory they should have used a standard overhead joining procedure, but in general were allowed to carry out a direct join to an appropriate visual circuit position. Often after landing they needed to backtrack the runway to parking which could catch following pilots out if they positioned too closely behind.  Airfield circuits were always carried out to the south as this was the only direction visible to ATC from the tower.
 
When the air races were in progress, ATC procedures were suspended and in latter years the ATCOs could take a breather and listen to the race organizers operating an Air/Ground radio service using the same frequency.  As we were still providing alerting for the emergency services it was important to keep this listening watch although I think the only emergency that I can remember during the races was when a Cessna 337 broke off the race and came into land with the rear engine overheating.  The Air races operated in accordance with a handicapping system, with the slowest aircraft starting first and the fastest last, the aim being to have a massed finish, so it will be seen why there could be no air traffic control during the races, pilots maintaining their own separation and (hopefully!) abiding by the Rules of the Air. They were permitted to dive towards the finishing line which provided a great show for the spectators. 
 
The Air Show operated under a normal ATC service with all participants having their display slot allocated and being fully briefed on display lines (how close they were allowed to come to the spectators) and procedures to be adopted in an emergency. ATC was generally fairly easy during the display so long as there were no emergencies, always a possibility, and pilots kept to their slots. The RAF Red Arrows were always absolutely spot on with times, some other participants less so!  Sometimes the program needed to be altered at short notice and some rapid co-ordination would be needed between ATC, the airshow organizers (generally Manx Airlines Captains Steve Bridson & Paul Quine on the day) and show participants to re-time the various items, the aim being to produce a smooth transition between each item to keep the spectators interested.
 
After the show was over, ATC became extremely busy as everyone who had flown in wanted to depart at the same time, or so it seemed.  The same problems would be experienced by the controllers at Ronaldsway as a mass of aircraft headed away from Jurby in all directions and due to most pilots just calling up on the radio when they were ready to taxi, the Jurby controllers rarely had the time to notify Ronaldsway, it was as much as we could to to write out the flight progress strips and keep the aircraft movement log up to date!  On at least one occasion ATC experienced problems with some of the air racing pilots wanting to depart during the air display, despite the airfield being NOTAM closed for the duration.  I even had to threaten to report one of the pilots who was using the radio to try and bully ATC into letting him depart during the show as 'he was very tired after all the racing'!   After the airshow had finished the Sandygate Road was re-opened to allow the spectators to depart more easily and we had to remind all pilots of the shortened runway distances available.  It had to be re-opened one year after an air race Cessna 337 pilot insisted that he needed the extra length to depart,  although he refused to specify exactly why. When he departed it became apparent that the rear engine was malfunctioning as he used up most of the runway before becoming airborne.  On anxious enquiries from ATC, his radio transmissions were unintelligible but he continued across the sea to the UK before, I believe, eventually force landing at a microlight airfield and seriously damaging the aircraft.   After everyone had left ATC was able to close up shop for the day.
 
 
Some pictures from the Jurby Airshows, 2002 - 2004 
View from Jurby Control Tower - July 2002
 
Supermarine Spitfire PT462 by the control tower at Jurby - July 2002
 
NA F86A Sabre on runway 25 - July 2003
 
Air race finish line at Jurby - July 2003
 
Mustang 'Janie' on runway 25 - July 2003
 
RAF Nimrod MR2 flying display - July 2003
 
RAF Harrier display - August 2004
 
Douglas A1 Skyraider parked on the short runway - August 2004
 
Refuelling a Boeing Stearman - August 2004
 
Mustang 'Jumpin Jaques' taxies for departure - August 2004
 
 Sadly the 2004 event was to be the last major aviation use of Jurby, with costs constantly exceeded income and many spectators choosing to view the show from outside the airfield rather than pay to come in. With the untimely death of the main driving force behind the shows, Captain Winston Oliver of Manx Airlines, it seems unlikely that there will be another.  These days Jurby is mainly a motor racing circuit, with only very occasional aviation activities, usually associated with film making.
 
 
 
Changes to Area Control
 
In the early 2000s changes by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to area control sector boundaries put Ronaldsway under the dividing line between Manchester Control and Scottish Control. To the south east, Manchester's Isle of Man sector controlled airway 'Bravo Three' to Wallesey and advisory route 'Whiskey Two Delta' to Pole Hill. In the other direction, Scottish Control's Antrim Sector controlled 'Bravo Three' to Belfast, advisory route 'Whiskey Nine One One Delta' between BOYNE (halfway to Dublin) and Dean Cross in Cumbria and advisory Whiskey Nine Two Eight Delta northwards from the 'IOM' beacon to BLACA, on the Mull of Galloway. The airspace to the northwest of the Isle of Man was changed considerably, with the 'Strangford Control Area' enlarging the airspace available for inbound and outbound traffic from the Belfast airports, at the same time all this airspace including airway B3 being reclassified from Class A to Class D.
 
2003 Airways Chart
 
The boundary between Scottish Control and Manchester Control was 5 miles south of the centreline of Advisory Route W911D
 
Radar facilities used by area control had been updated, the St Anne's S264 50cm radar had been replaced by a Watchman/SSR system and was the main radar used by Manchester Control over the Irish Sea. Scottish Control used the radar located at Lowther Hill in south west Scotland.
 
St Anne's Watchman Radar
Lowther Hill Radar Site
 
 
 
The Approach/Radar Room Rebuilt in 2003
 
Following the successful reconstruction of the Aerodrome Control desk, it was decided to refurbish the radar room. The metal desk originally constructed in the early 1980s was getting very much past its 'best before' date, modifications made over the years leaving the structure in a much weakened state. To ensure that the design was right a wooden 'mock up' was produced enabling controllers to sit at the workstation and test proposed locations of equipment, making suggestions as to how the design could be improved.
 
Mock-up of the Proposed new Radar desk
 
To enable the radar room to be rebuilt, a temporary control room was constructed in the same location as had been used for the temporary VCR on the second floor of the tower. The control desk mock-up came in very useful as with equipment installed it became the radar control desk. Space was limited and there was only room for one controller and one assistant, the work being carried out during March and April 2003.
 
Ronaldsway (temporary) Radar - April 2003
The new Radar Desk - April 2003
 
By May 2003 the new desk was ready for use and Radar moved back upstairs. Initially only one radar control position was available but by the end of the month nearly all equipment had been installed. Provision was made for an ATC Assistant on the right end of the desk, with an Approach Procedural control position next and then Radar One and Radar Two positions. One slight disadvantage of the new desk was that there had been no space left for the Radar Control Panel, which was relocated to the Telecommunication Equipment room on the floor below. Whilst not often requiring adjustments there were occasions when selections of different functions needed to be made and with reductions over the years to the ATC Engineering department staff complement there wasn't always an engineer on duty to do this.
The new Radar Desk completed
 
Radar, Controller Workstation
Radar, Assistant Workstation
 
 
 
Flight Testing at Ronaldsway
 
From time to time Ronaldsway has been visited by manufacturers aircraft on flight test programs, a major one in the 2000s being the ill fated British Aerospace Nimrod MR4. Apparently the Instrument Landing System signal on runway 26 is very 'pure', being over water and hence ideal for flight test purposes.
Nimrod MR4 ZJ518 at Ronaldsway - Feb 2005
Nimrod MR4 ZJ516 - Feb 2007
 
 
 
Area Control Standing Agreements and 'Silent' Handovers
 
Although Ronaldsway arrivals and departures via 'airways' were initially individually co-ordinated with the area control units, starting with Scottish a system of 'agreed levels' and silent handovers from radar controller to radar controller was instigated, further reducing the amount of telephone calls needed. After an initial ETA was passed to Ronaldsway, Scottish would route inbound aircraft to the 'IOM' beacon and descend them to Flight Level 70, communications could be transferred earlier, but the 'Release Point' where Control was transferred to Ronaldsway was 25 miles before the 'IOM'. For outbound flights, Ronaldsway Tower would pass a 'departure warning' with a provisional airborne time to Scottish and the aircraft would be climbed to Flight Level 60, the only exception to these levels being aircraft routing via W911D to Dean Cross, where the standard inbound level was FL80 and outbound FL 70.
 
By 2005 the main airway across the Isle of Man, routing from the Wallesey VOR 'WAL' on the Wirral, via the 'IOM' VOR to Belfast VOR  'BEL'  had been re-designated as 'Lima Ten' This was the fourth designator for this route, being established in 1951 as 'Red Three', subsequently 'Blue Three',  'Bravo Three' before  'Lima Ten'.
2009 RAF 'Airways' Chart
 
The system of standing agreements was later extended to Manchester Centre, inbound aircraft via airway L10 being positioned on radar headings by Manchester Control onto the northern side of the airway and descended to Flight Level 80, whilst outbound aircraft being positioned by Ronaldsway Radar to the south side of the airway climbing to Flight Level 70. Usually all handovers were 'silent' between Area and Approach, but sometimes phone co-ordination was required to expedite traffic. All Approach ATC operations were now geared around the use of radar, the 'Approach' position in radar not being manned, standard staffing being a radar controller and approach assistant, the second radar position being opened up if traffic levels require it.
 
Scottish Area Control Centre
Manchester Area Control Centre
 
 
 
Ronaldsway Barco/FRL Radar Display in various modes of operation
 
The FRL radar displays could be configured to suit the user and just about everybody had their own favourite set-up. The picture could be zoomed in or out, offset from centre, operated in 'full screen' mode or with the control panel and a 'picture in picture' display. There was a selection of 'Map Scenes' selectable from the menu, which were made up of various overlays that could be selected or de-selected as required. Special overlays were provided for carrying out Surveillance Radar Approaches (SRAs) marked with the advisory altitudes or height to passed at each mile from touchdown.
 
40nm with Control Panel
40nm Full Screen
Runway 26 QNH SRA
Primary Radar Only
 
 
 
More Airfield Changes
 
By 2006 runway 17/35 had been closed, mainly on safety grounds as the new cargo terminal was directly north of the runway, this had already resulted in a considerably displaced landing threshold. The northern section became taxiway 'Foxtrot', the southern section was closed but came back into use later for parking aircraft. The 'link taxiway' that had run across the southern edge of the apron was also closed to make more parking stands. While the extra stands were very welcome, it did make more ATC planning required at busy times and with less routes available onto the east and west aprons, arriving aircraft sometimes had to be held further away waiting for departing aircraft to taxi. Operations in poor visibility conditions were slower as more confliction points now existed on the taxiways.
 
Airfield Diagram 2006
Google Earth Image 2006
 
 
The Radar Displays Replaced in 2008
 
By 2008 the original Barco CRT displays used since the radar replacement program in 1995 were becoming less reliable and needing repair on a regular basis. The display cabinets were very bulky and heavy and took a considerable effort to move via the stairs (no lift!) in the control tower and so were replaced by more modern TFT 'flat screen' displays which were more closely integrated into the desks. The picture displayed was the same as before.
 
 
 
Flat screen TFT Radar Display
Flat Screen TFT Display close-up
 
 
 
Ronaldsway main runway extended - the RESA Project
 
To comply with future Runway End Safety Area (RESA) requirements, some changes needed to be made to the runways at Ronaldsway. The 'easiest' option was to do nothing to the physical length of the runways, but reduce the 'declared distances' for landing and take off to produce the required RESAs at each end. This would have been acceptable for the short haul turboprop and small jet aircraft operating at the time but would be restrictive to larger jets and longer routes, so a major construction project was initiated to physically extend runway 26/08 at either end. The first part of the project undertaken was at the westerly end where the required land already existed, taxiway 'Alpha' also being extended to the new end of the runway.  This stage was completed and in operation in 2008.
 
Airfield Diagram 2008
 
Showing the extension to the western end of runway 26/08 and taxiway 'Alpha' linking to the new starter extension
 
The extension at the eastern end was not going to be so easy. To the east of runway 26 the land sloped down sharply to a rocky foreshore and a metal gantry carried the runway 26 approach lights over the sea. The plan was to construct a rock wall around the extension area and then infilled with dredged sand before constructing the runway and taxiway extension.
 
Ronaldsway RESA Project
 
The area to the east of runway 26 showing the approach lighting gantry.
 
Work had started by March 2009 and at the end of the month the initial part of the rock boundary enclosing the infill area was in place. Work continued at a rapid rate and by the end of the year the project was substantially complete.
 
 
One aspect of the RESA project that maybe deserved more consideration was the provision of Approach Lights for runway 26.  With a Catagory One ILS (Instrument Landing System), the minimum height a pilot can descend to without a 'visual reference', i.e the runway or approach lights is around 200ft (it varies between aircraft types and companies).  Before the runway was extended the approach lights extended out to sea on a gantry, with an overall length of 427 metres with two crossbars. When the project was completed, the approach lights only started at the physical and of the runway, reducing their length to 360 metres.  In low cloud or foggy conditions, this could make the difference between an aircraft being able to land or having to commence a 'go around' if the pilot doesn't see the lights by 'descision height'.  A 'standard' approach light system for a CAT 1 ILS equipped runway is 900 metres long with 5 crossbars.
 
 
 
2009 New Air Traffic Services outside Controlled Airspace (ATSOCAS)
 
After a period of consultation involving all interested parties, new rules for Air Traffic Services Outside Controlled Airspace (ATSOCAS) were introduced in March 2009. Under the previous arrangements, types of service provided were: Alerting Service, Flight Information Service, Radar Information Service and Radar Advisory Service. There were, however, different interpretations of these services between civil and military units, leading to pilot confusion as to what they were actually getting. Under the new system, pilots could expect exactly the same service whether working a military or civil ATC unit. The new services provided were: Basic Service, Traffic Service, Deconfliction Service and Procedural Service. Controllers were requested to offer the services only as specified under the new rules, to encourage pilots to request the level of service appropriate to their flight conditions.
 
Air Traffic Services Outside Controlled Airspace (ATSOCAS)
 
Section of a publicity leaflet widely distributed to pilots and controllers before the new services came into operation
 
 
 
The New Control Tower Project
 
Another project to get underway in 2009 was a replacement for the 1943 control tower. Although having served well for a building that had probably been designed to last less than 10 years during WW2,  by the 1990s it was showing its age with damp being a major internal problem.  It's location was also awkward, preventing any further expansion of the airport terminal departures pier and sight lines needed addressing, as the threshold of runway 21 was only observable by using a CCTV camera system. Several locations were examined before the final site was settled, just north of the former runway 17/35 close to the east apron boundary.  Work commenced in January 2009 and continued throughout the year, with the majority of external construction being completed by the end of the year.
 
 
2010 - Last year in the old Control Tower
 
 An era was coming to an end, with the new control due to be commissioned and the 1944 Royal Navy tower that had served
civil ATC for over sixty years scheduled for demolition shortly after it was vacated. The airport runway and taxiway extensions had been completed.
 
2010 Airfield Diagram
 
Preparing for the big move
 
With the new tower structurally completed, ATC started 2010 working in the old tower whilst all the technical equipment was installed in the new. Very little was to be transferred from old to new and a large training program would be required for both the technical staff and air traffic controllers and assistants. This would have to be done while still providing a full service from the old tower, with no extra staff available to help out. At times resources were stretched with staff having to move between the old and new towers.
 
 A photo tour of the old Control Tower in its last year of operation
The old control tower viewed from the new
The old control tower from ground level
 
 
The Visual Control Room 'Ronaldsway Tower' 118.9 Mhz
 
Top floor of the Tower, added to the original in 1960
The Visual Control Room Desk
 
Controller Working Position
Flight Progress Strip Bay
Aerodrome Traffic Monitor
New Airfield Lighting Control Panel
 
Aldis Signalling Lamp
 
 
The Approach Radar Control Room 'Ronaldsway Radar' 120.850  118.2
 
Floor below the Visual Control Room, originally the Royal Navy 'Watch Office' at the top of the tower.
The Approach Radar Control Desk
Controller Working Position
Radar Flight Progress Strip Bay
Watchman/SSR Radar Display
Watchman with Anaprop Clutter
Watchman 'Raw' Radar
 
 
The Air Traffic Engineering Department
 
Second floor of the tower, the original Royal Navy and civil ATC Control room until the 1960s
ATC Engineering Equipment Room
VHF Radio Receivers
ATC Engineering Equipment Room
 
 
The Meteorological Office
 
Located on the first floor of the control tower building, where it was most likely established in 1944 by the Royal Navy. 
Moved to a new home in 2010 in Viscount House, away from ATC for the first time.
Met Forecaster's Desk
Equipment Old & New
Met Observer's Desk
 

Area Control Services
 
 The New Prestwick Centre
 
At the end of January 2010 Manchester Centre was closed down and operations transferred to the new Scottish Centre at Prestwick. The new ATCC had initially opened in October 2009 when Shanwick Oceanic Control moved across from the adjacent Atlantic House, followed by Scottish Military in October and Scottish Civil in November. The move of Manchester ACC completed UK Area Control provider NATS policy of just having two UK area control centres.
NATS new Prestwick Air Traffic Control Centre
 
The move had very little effect on operations at Ronaldsway as all procedures remained the same as before. The only minor problem was trying to remember that the unit callsign for flights to the south was now 'Scottish Control'. To the north west was Antrim Sector using 123.775 and to the south east Isle of Man Sector on 133.050 or 128.050 when 'bandboxed' with the Wallesey Sector in quieter traffic periods. Although not affecting Ronaldsway at all, the high level traffic over the island was controlled by another Scottish Sector, Antrim, using 129.1 Mhz. A basic Flight Information Service was provided to the north of the island by 'Scottish Information' on 119.875 Mhz.
Prestwick Centre - Operations Room
 
 
London Centre
 
Control of military traffic operating over and around the Isle of Man was still by 'London Military', located at the London Air Traffic Control Centre, Swanwick. They were also the usual controlling authority for the Air to Air Refuelling Area (AARA13) located over the Irish Sea to the east of the island. Another important function provided from Swanwick was the Distress and Diversion Cell which provides a service to military and civil aircraft in emergency situations. To the north of the island, Scottish Military provided a similar service.
 
London Military 'LJAO'
 
Also being provided from Swanwick was 'London Information' a Flight Information Service that provides a 'Basic Service' to aircraft operating in the London Flight Information Region, from the English Channel right up to the boundary with Scottish airspace.

 
Preparing for operations from the new Control Tower
 
With so much different equipment going into the new tower, it was going to take quite a while to firstly install it all and then for ATC engineers, 
controllers and assistants to train in its use while still providing a service from the old tower. Although theoretical work could commence straight away, 
it was not until all of the equipment was installed and working that we could do the essential practical 'hands on' training.
 
 
January 2010
 
Although the structure of the new building was complete, a huge amount of work was still needed before ATC could move in, starting with building the control desks and installing the vast amount of wiring and equipment needed.
 
The New Control Tower
Visual Control Room
Approach Radar Control Room
 
March/April 2010
 
Equipment continued to be installed and we could start to see how the operational areas were going to work. Controllers and assistants paid regular visits to the new building and provided feedback and suggestions as to how equipment could be arranged and utilised. Unit training manager Paul Warriner was very busy working out an ATC training program for the new tower.
 
Visual Control Room
Approach Radar Control Room
 
May/June 2010
 
A large amount of the operational equipment was now working in the new tower and the training program moved away from just looking at manuals and attending
classroom training sessions to 'hands on' sessions with the equipment, quite difficult to schedule in while still providing a full ATC service from the old tower. Just travelling from the old building to the new for training and then back again took at least 20 minutes.
 
Approach Radar Room
Visual Control Room
VCR ATCO Working Position
 
 
Configuring the new Park Air Surveillance Displays
 
For a while we had one of the new surveillance displays installed in the old radar room for evaluation and training, the radar mapping as initially supplied needed 
quite a lot of work before it came up to operational requirements.
 
New Park Air Surveillance Display
Display with initial Mapping
Display with revised Mapping
Display with final mapping revision
 
 
August 2010
 
With an operational date of early September decided, the last touches were being made to the inside of the building
with a last training push to make sure everybody was signed off before the move. A completely revised manual of Air Traffic Services Part 2
had been produced by supervisor Martin Benson for the new tower and issued to all controllers.
 
Almost ready for Operations!
Checking Emergency Evacuation Procedures
 
 
 
September 2010
 
Time to move home!
 
7th September - 'O' day tomorrow!
Dawn over the new tower, 8th September
 
 
September 8th 2010 - The last day of operations in the old Tower
 
The move to the new building was to be undertaken during the early afternoon with Senior Air Traffic Engineer Lloyd Taggart having
prepared a detailed timetable for the transfer of services. Despite all the planning and training, there was always a possibility that something 
unforeseen might happen which would delay the move or force a return to the old building
 
Old Control Tower Visual Control Room
Old Control Tower Approach Radar Control Room
 
 
The new Control Tower in operation - September 2010
 
The move from old to new towers went (relatively) smoothly and the months of training paid off with staff settling in to using the new equipment operationally
 
New Control Tower from Turkeyland
Visual Control Room
Approach Radar Control Room
 
 
Gone but not forgotten - the VHF Direction Finder
 
One item of equipment that didn't make it into the new control tower was the VHF D/F. With the principle dating right back to the
start of Air Traffic Control, the D/F was once considered to be an essential piece of ATC equipment in the days of procedural control
and radar operations without SSR. Over the last five years or so the D/F had suffered from unreliability, spending more time out of service than in,
with some of the newer controllers at Ronaldsway having hardly ever used it and it was decided that the costs of refurbishing for the new
tower were not justified and it was withdrawn permanently from use.
 
Ronaldsway VHF D/F Aerial and Equipment Cabin
D/F Display and Frequency Selector
 
 
 
Carnane NDB 'CAR' 366.5 Khz
 
Another piece of equipment unlikely to be returned to service was the Non Direction Beacon (NDB) at Carnane. Having suffered a serious aerial fault that would be expensive to repair, a safety study was being undertaken to assess the implications of permanently withdrawing it from use. In recent years, the main use of the beacon was when providing a procedural service if the radar was out of use for any reason. By using both the 'IOM' and 'CAR' holding patterns, inbound and outbound traffic could be expedited, but with the growing dependence on ATC surveillance systems and a new radar system with more redundancy capabilities in the pipeline, its return seemed unlikely.
Carnane NDB Site
 
 
 
A New Introduction - Radar based 'Safety Nets'
 
Included in the new Park Air radar displays were three major advances over the previous ones in the old control tower. These were computer processed 'Safety Nets' comprising STCA - Short Term Conflict Alert, MSAW - Minimum Sector Altitude Warning and AFDAS Approach Funnel Deviation Alerting System. They require the Ronaldsway Secondary Surveillance Radar to be serviceable as this is the source of data for the system processor.
 
STCA
The STCA is designed to give controllers early warning of potential aircraft conflicts by processing aircraft SSR returns and calculating likely future positions. If the system considers that there is a possible conflict it will alert the controller by highlighting the two (or more) aircraft returns. This works in two stages, Stage 1 is intended to give 45 seconds warning and highlights labels in steady yellow, Stage 2 gives 30 seconds warning and flashes labels in red. The STCA can be triggered by high climb and descent rates of aircraft, in this case a controller would confirm the cleared level with the pilot or pilots and probably pass traffic information on the other aircraft involved.
STCA Stage 2 Warning
 
MSAW
The MSAW is designed to alert a controller if an aircraft is descending to a potentially dangerous altitude. It requires a digital terrain model to be set up in the computer processing and needs to be configured so as not to give spurious warning on aircraft legitimately operating at lower altitudes, for example aircraft operating under the Visual Flight Rules who must be in sight of the ground. At the time of writing this system is still under evaluation at Ronaldsway and not in operational use.
 
AFDAS
The AFDAS is deigned to give controller warning if an aircraft is deviating from the final approach track either laterally or vertically within about the last 8 miles of approach. This system is more of use to larger airports with multiple parallel runways used for simultaneous approaches and is probably unlikely to be used at Ronaldsway as it can generate spurious warning for several reasons, the most likely is due to an aircraft making a visual approach to the runway.
 
 
 
November 2010 - SnoClo!
 
Towards the end of November, the island was hit by heavy snowfalls which completely covered the airfield, making operations impossible until
the main runway, one taxiway and the aprons could be cleared. From the new tower we had a great view though!
 
First light - 29th November 2010
View from the VCR - Where are the Runways!
The new Control Tower in the snow
 
 
December 2010 - Snow Again
 
The snow returned in mid December, again disrupting operations but providing me with a nice picture of the old Control Tower!
 
2010 had been a very busy and often difficult year for all of the tower staff from Management to Controllers and Assistants, but particularly for the
very small band of Air Traffic Engineers led by Lloyd Taggart who had ensured that the move was successfully completed. Thanks guys!
 
The old Control Tower
 
 
2011 - New radar installation commences
 
The summer of 2011 saw the first physical signs of the replacement radar for the Watchman/Cossor system installed in 1995/98 which would have needed extensive work to continue in operation. The selected system was a Selex ATCR-33S Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR) combined with a Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) Mode-S Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) System. The PSR was located on a new site just outside the airfield boundary on Turkeyland hill, with the WAM system comprising multiple sensors at sites around the island to improve low level surveillance coverage to the north, where terrain shielding at present precluded cover below 8000ft in places. The system will also allow surveillance of aircraft and transponder equipped vehicles operating on the airfield.
 
New PSR aerial in packing cases
June 2011
Supporting tower for Selex PSR
July 2011
New PSR radar aerial installed
July 2011
 
Selex PSR aerial with a WAM sensor
Selex WAM sensor aerial
 
 
2011 - 2012 Demolition of the old Control Tower
 
Delayed for various reasons, demolition of the control tower built in 1943 during World War 2 for the Royal Navy commenced in October 2011
a year after the building had been vacated by ATC
27th October 2011
27th October 2011
28th October 2011
 
After some further delays, final demolition took place towards the end of January 2012, removing all traces
of the building that had served military and civil Air Traffic Control at Ronaldsway for over 65 years.
26th January 2012
15th February 2012
 
 
2012 - Data arriving from the new Surveillance system
Displays in the ATC engineering equipment room
System Status Monitor
Engineering Traffic Display
Multilateration Display
 
Mode-S and PSR data as displayed in the Approach Radar room for evaluation purposes
ATC at Ronaldsway Today
 
 Unless otherwise credited, all pictures on this website are  © Jon Wornham