2nd Darwin Control Tower - 1950
water reserviorTower cabradio antennaradio antennaradio antennaradio antennaradio antenna

In mid-1950 DCA took over air traffic control responsibility at Darwin's military aerodrome from the RAAF when civil operations moved there from the nearby Parap Aerodrome. The former RAAF Tower was an open-sided shack on stilts and was replaced by this civil Control Tower constructed under a water reservoir - easily the strangest Tower ever built in Australia!

The water tank dates from about 1940. The military development of Darwin in the 1930s brought an influx of military personnel which strained the town's water supply system. Naval fleets also needed reliable water supplies. In 1939 construction of a new water storage, Manton Dam, was commenced under the supervision of the Royal Australian Navy. A series of water towers was erected around Darwin as part of the scheme to convey Manton's water to the town and this was one such. It survived the Japanese bombing of Darwin from 1942 onward as well as Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

In 1950 Air Traffic Controller Ray Soden was sent on temporary transfer from Sydney to commission the facility, and to train and check four controllers. The photo above shows the Tower shortly after commissioning. It was painted in red and white squares to highlight it as an obstacle.

The photo below was taken in April 1958 and shows the Tower with, in the foreground, visiting Royal Air Force De Havilland Comet C2 XK696.



In 1959 this Tower was replaced by a more modern Tower although the tower itself remained standing, looking much the same.


Because of its iconic nature and significance as part of Darwin's development (both as water tank and Control Tower), the structure became heritage listed. However, in later years it became something of an obstruction, being sited in the middle of the RAAF apron.

In May 2008 the structure was dismantled and transported to be re-erected, somewhat foreshortened, at the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre on the southern boundary of Darwin Airport. The photo at left shows it in situ at the Heritage Centre on 30 October 2008.

(Photos: Top-CAHS/Ray Soden collection / Middle-CAHS/W.K.Knight collection / Bottom-Martin Eadie)

Back to the main Air Traffic Services index


If this page appears without menu bars at top and left, click here