Archerfield Control Tower - 1974

This series of photographs was taken of the Brisbane/Archerfield Control Tower cab in September 1974, shortly before this Tower closed and operations moved to a new, free-standing Control Tower. This Tower cab was built on to the roof of the Operations-Administration building, originally constructed in 1940. Click here to see a photo of this building.


Retired Controller Don Muir provides the following information about the photo above and his time in this Tower:

"The one looking over from behind the console is Graeme Pitts. Graeme was far too bright to be an ATC and only stayed a few years. Whilst the rest of us were toeing the line and wearing collars and ties to work in the AACC, Graeme was wearing khaki army gear, sporting a Fidel Castro beard and sunglasses, and smoking big Cuban cigars. Graeme revelled in being totally outrageous and loud all of the time and whatever you said to him, he was able to immediately repeat to you – backwards! A rare skill indeed. He was totally funny with a great sense of humour and enjoyed bucking authority. I think they sent him to Archerfield because Management found him hard to cope with..... and Archerfield had a much more relaxed dress code.

The other person (with the long hair) is me at the grand old age of 23. At this stage, following graduation from a long term course, I had spent approx 13 months as Flight Data (OFD, TFD & AFD) then a total of approx 4 months on Brisbane Sector 2 (including 6 weeks being trained and rated, then as a training officer after one day of consolidation) before being transferred to Archerfield. They needed someone quickly to fill a vacancy at Archerfield and I happened to be in the right place at the right time – a career changing move.

Normally one would sit on sectors for about two years and then be sent to either Archerfield, or one of the regional procedural Area positions (Townsville, Rockhampton or Mt Isa). If you were sent to Archerfield, it was seen as a precursor to a future move in about 2 years time to one of the procedural towers (Cairns, Mackay, Rockhampton, Mt Isa, Coolangatta). A lot of Controllers had young families or a preference for staying in Brisbane, so it was not popular – and if sent to Archerfield there was always the probability that after 2 years there would be another move – possibly to somewhere you would not like (e.g. Mt Isa). Anyway it suited me and was a great learning ground.

About 30% of the shifts were in Pilot Briefing which was located on the ground floor of the Terminal building...and there are a lot of stories to be told about that place too. During 1975 the new Tower was completed (on the southern boundary of the airport) so we moved over there but, of course, continued to man the Briefing Office too.

When you get a few bright young blokes together - sometimes with too much time on their hands - something's gotta give...

At one stage (in the old Tower) one of the Controllers got hold of some of the 12 gauge cartridges used by the Safety Officers and Fire Crew to scare the birds away. After opening one of these cartridges it was discovered that inside there was a secondary explosive cracker with a short wick. This wick would ignite on initial detonation of the cartridge and would burn down over a second or so whilst the cracker was projected through the air. The cracker would then explode with a fearsome bang about 80-100m from the gunner and scare away the birds.

One of these small explosives was lit and dropped from the Tower balcony just as the DCA electricians pulled up in their Land Rover at the bottom of the Tower - outside the Briefing Office. As the electrician stepped out of the car there was a almighty explosion from underneath which, of course, scared the life out of him. Thereupon ensued a war involving the Electricians, the ATCs and the Fireys.

I went on leave for 5 weeks and forgot about 'the war'. On return for my day shift famil, I was surprised to discover that not only was the door to the Tower cab locked but the normal 2 clicks of the security handset was insufficient for me to gain entry...I actually had to talk to someone. I didn't think too much about it but decided it was locked by accident - so left it unlocked.

I was probably being watched because about 5 minutes later we heard the door at the base of the cab click shut. Everyone looked at me and one shouted "You didn't leave the door unlocked.. did you...???!!!" Before I could say anything, they all put their fingers to their ears and there was a massive explosion from the stairwell. I was standing at the focal point of the semi-circular glass windows with unprotected ears. I spent the remainder of the day in considerable pain and didn't recover for 3 or 4 days. That event ended the war and a truce was called!

Some of the names on the roster in that era (1974 to late 1976) were: Eric Felmingham (OIC); Joe Birmingham (or Bermingham?) (later to be OIC); Tom Harris; Judd (Justin) Spencer; Dick Andrews; Noel (Tom) Snelling; Ian Fitzpatrick; one of the McGuire brothers (Roger or Glen – can’t remember); Graeme Pitts; Don Muir; Noel Gibson; Greg Draper; Bob Crombie; Max Chipman.

We all had a lot of fun at Archerfield during those few years."

(Photos: CAHS collection)

Click here to read about the history of this building in Control Towers Part 1

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