Gove Tower - 2008

The Control Tower at Gove, in the Northern Territory's Arnhem Land, is unique among Towers in Australia: it was built but never actually used!

The decision to build a Tower at Gove stems from Departmental policy of the day that a an Aerodrome Control service would be provided wherever jet RPT services operated. In 1952 huge bauxite reserves were discovered at Gove and by 1972 alumina from a newly-constructed mine was being refined. Gove quickly became the third biggest town in the Northern Territory. Given the remote location of Gove, on the north-eastern coast of Arnhem Land, significant air traffic developed to service the mine including, by the 1980s, DC-9 and F.28 services.

Ian Jennings, a Flight Service Officer stationed at Gove in the mid-1980s, recalls that one incident that led to the decision to build the Tower at Gove involved an Ansett DC-9 inbound to Gove from Cairns during the wet season in the early '80s. The pilot was given a SPECI (Special aerodrome weather report) and advised to hold. After holding for some time the pilot elected to carry out a VOR approach, but arrived at the runway at the same time as a heavy rain shower. The aircraft made a missed approach and tried again, with the same result. After a third approach with little fuel remaining and bad weather at both Darwin and Tindal, the pilot elected to divert to Groote Eylandt. Ian remembers that two F.28s were used to take the passengers out and the DC-9 had to be flown out nearly empty.


Construction of Gove Tower commenced in mid-1985 and was completed the following year at a cost of about $1.8 million. Like Adelaide Tower, Gove Tower was built on a mound to avoid having to install a lift.

In addition to the Tower, an additional six houses were also constructed: 3 for the ATC staff and 3 for Bureau of Meteorology staff.

Ian Jennings recalls that in the event SA/NT Regional Director Ray MacNamara decided that the operational benefit of manning the Tower was not cost-effective, and the Tower was never commissioned. Ian remembers that during his time with Gove Flight Service, they would occasionally visit the Tower where mushrooms flourished on the console!

The photos of Gove Tower on this page were taken in May 2008.

(Photos: Martin Eadie)

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