Mascot Control Tower c.1937
signal ballsignal ball

The first Control Tower, of simple wooden construction, at Sydney’s Mascot (later Kingsford Smith) Airport was commissioned in 1937. The 'Tower' was built into the roof of the Aero Club building. A similar but rather cruder 'Tower' was also constructed at Melbourne/Essendon.

The Aerodrome Control Officer relied on visual signals for the control of traffic. These included coloured cane balls, seen here, which could be hoisted or lowered to indicate certain aerodrome conditions. Flares fired by Very pistol were also an important signalling device which survived into the 1950s.

The aircraft in the photo above is Westland Widgeon III VH-UGI (c/n WA.1681). This aircraft was first registered in September 1927, however after spending some years in New Guinea its registration lapsed in November 1936. It returned to Australia and was re-registered in June 1937 to well-known Sydney aviation identity Sid Marshall. Its Certificate of Airworthiness lapsed in 1941 and it was struck off the Register in 1947, probably as part of a post-War Register clean-up. Happily this venerable Widgeon later went through an extensive restoration to airworthy condition. It is currently the only example left still airworthy and resides at owner, former CAA Chairman Dick Smith's farm near Canberra.

signal ball


Left: By 1939 the Tower was subject to complaint by some pilots, as reported in this newspaper story. However, a new and much more impressive Tower was opened a year later, in 1940.


Photos: CAHS collection / Newspaper clipping: Roger McDonald collection)


Read about the use of visual signals for the control of aerodrome traffic

Read about the history of Control Towers

Back to the main Air Traffic Services index page

Back to the Items of General Interest index

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