100 years of Air Traffic Control celebrated on Air Traffic Controller's day

- Maastricht, the Netherlands.

This year has seen various celebrations for the Air Traffic Control industry as it is widely agreed that the first ATC activities were conducted in the year 1922 when Croydon Airport and Le Bourget set up it's first Air Traffic Control position for flights between Croydon (London, U.K) and Le Bourget (Paris, France).

Croydon airfield began a few years before as a grass field where the runway profile dipped in such a way that aircraft disappeared from sight from the aerodrome buildings. In it's early year's aerial smugglers used this to their advantage.

But the airfield, originally known as Customs airport for London, quickly became the departure point for passenger flights to and from Paris, Belgium, Germany and then in 1926 the first 'many stops' flight to India.

Some initial attempts at setting up passenger services were not successful. One company flew 2 Westland Limousines carrying three passengers from London to Paris and was quickly liquidated after less than 2 months.

Later came government intervention with subsidies to build the new emerging transport industry. Initial flights to the continent by companies Handley Page Transport and Instone Company cost around £6 one-way and £12 for a return trip.  

The French companies flying this route were Compagnie de Messageries Aeriennes and Compagnies des Grands Express Acriens, later merged into Air Union and then Air France.

Belgium flights were operated by SNETA (later to become Sabena) which started passenger operations in May 1920.

During 1921-22 Air Traffic Control began with some former pilots taking charge of providing initial services. Lt. E.H "Bill" Lawford,  "Jimmy" Jeffs, Commander Deacon, Cpt. Morkam and Mr Russel. Later joined by another former pilot from Instome H.W Chattaway they are listed as the first controllers. Marconi later provided the first air-to-ground radio system at Croydon.

ATC Network would like to congratulate all industry colleagues on this 100 years of ATC and celebrate this special Air Traffic Controller's day.

Sources: The First Croydon Airport 1915-1928 (Sutton Libraries and Arts Services) 1977





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