Melbourne Area Approach Control Centre c.1980s
TAST monitorICM  joystick


This photo was taken some time in the mid-1980s in the Melbourne Area Approach Control Centre (AACC). This AACC operated from September 1967 until October 1988. The Controller in the foreground is Check Controller Juri Strante on Sector 2 Arrivals Radar, to his left is Doug Black on Sector 2 Radar and in the background is Ian Kuchel on Sector 2 Procedural. These sectors controlled traffic to the north-east of Melbourne. The equipment in use is the 'Bright Display' radar system. Unlike previous radar displays which had to be operated in the dark, this system could be operated in a dimly-lit room.

The Bright Display system presented raw radar returns overlaid by a video map showing airspace, routes and other important features. Initially there was no labelling of returns and target identification was done mostly by distance reports or observing a directed turn ("...turn right 30 degrees for identification"). From July 1974 SSR capability was introduced with non-discrete codes only, and no Mode C data. Returns were displayed with a geometric symbol (e.g. rectangle, triangle) depending on the code being squawked. The SPI (ident function) displayed a big triangle around the whole target and became the normal way traffic was identified.

The 'joystick' seen on the right-hand end of the console controlled an Inter-Console Marker (ICM) with which one Controller could relay identification of a target to another Controller. Ident was maintained using 'shrimp boats' - click here to read more about shrimp boats.

Former Melbourne Air Traffic Controller Peter Chadwick recalls "One noteworthy point about the Sector 2 radar console was that it was a mosaic display, taking both Melbourne and Canberra radar feeds and overlapping their coverages. (No such thing as Multi Radar Tracking then!) Melbourne was displayed in the bottom left of the screen and Canberra was in the top right. At that time this Sector handled right up to Wagga and could see traffic east of Mallacoota. I'm pretty sure the ICMs between Sydney and Melbourne [AACCs] were connected via microwave link, which was pretty hi-tech for that era to be able to wiggle a joystick in Melbourne and something would move in Sydney!"

The display mounted above the radar console is a monitor for the TAST system - Terminal Area Severe Turbulence advice. Introduced in 1975, this monitor displayed a hand-drawn diagram, relayed from the Bureau of Meteorology by closed-circuit television, showing the location of thunderstorm activity observed on the Bureau's weather radars in the previous 10 minutes. Simultaneously, the Flight Data Officers would produce a verbal description of the advice which was broadcast back-to-back with the ATIS. This system was of little practical value, especially considering the time delay and the fact that all medium and large transport aircraft were required to be fitted with their own weather radar. TAST was later replaced with a display showing the weather radar picture directly.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

Click here to see a wider, earlier shot inside Melbourne AACC

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