Mackay Air Traffic Control Tower turns 40

12 Jul 2012

Airservices Mackay Air Traffic Control Tower last week marked 40 years of providing safe and efficient air traffic control services in the region.

The tower, which opened on 6 July 1972 by the Civil Aviation Authority, is one of 28 control towers around the country now operated by Airservices Australia, the nation’s air navigation services provider.

Airservices Mackay and Hamilton Island Tower Supervisor, Allan Maddison, has worked in Mackay Tower for 21 years. During that time there have been some significant changes in the technology, but Allan still remembers how excited the controllers were when they got their first piece of technology – a fax machine.

“We thought that was the greatest, but compared to what we have now – four computers, a surveillance feed, and two video cameras covering the apron and wider airport, it was really nothing,” said Allan.

“On the down side we no longer have the best view in town as high-rise buildings have made their way into Mackay – although our panoramic views are still spectacular.”

The views come courtesy of special glass which was imported from Belgium – each pane is 2.5 centimetres thick and weighs 272 kilograms.

The octagon tower was also planned to ensure pillars between the glass did not block their view of the runway and to provide a clear line of sight for air traffic controllers.

Along with improved technology, the last 40 years has also seen changes to the number of airports in the region and the aircraft used.

In the 1970s Mackay was one of the busiest regional airports in the country with all the Whitsunday tourism traffic passing through – Hamilton Island Airport did not exist and Proserpine was just a minor airfield.

The airport also hosts the latest generation of modern aircraft, including Embraer E-Jets and Airbus A320s, along with a new generation of turbo-props like the Bombardier Q400, as they whisk people all over the state quietly and more efficiently than ever.