Members of the Goodwood Aero Club have been fortunate in being offered visits to a number of restricted access areas, including the ARCC, and Gatwick and Heathrow control towers. The latest visit, to the Gatwick control tower, also included a tour of the Virgin engineering hangar and a look around a B777, guided by the BA Chief Pilot for Gatwick.
On arrival, Andrew Kenyon of Air Navigation Services gave us an introduction to air traffic control at Gatwick, including the recent takeover from NATS. Security was tight but we all eventually made it through to the control tower itself, which, as expected, gave a panoramic view of the aerodrome. For those who had not previously visited a control tower, the prevailing calm and quiet was something of a surprise. The steady stream of arrivals and departures included an A380, looking diminutive on the runway until it approached the parking stands when its bulk became apparent. The Virgin Atlantic B747 which we were to visit arrived, and was manoeuvred into the engineering hangar for its check before departure later that evening. The ground movement’s map was fascinating, looking like the Marauders’ Map as the aircraft and vehicles were moved and tracked around the manoeuvring area.
We then left airside and were taken to the Virgin Atlantic hangar, where we were given a warm welcome by the engineers, who showed us around their immaculate hangar and the 747 which was being checked before its departure. Divided into two groups, we all had the opportunity to ask as many questions as we liked, before being allowed into the cockpit, where photographs were duly taken.
The last part of the visit was airside again, to be shown a BA B777, parked at one of the stands while it was on a short turnaround. The BA Chief Pilot talked us through a rather wet and windy walk round of the aircraft, and then showed us the cockpit, an interesting comparison with the 747.
In addition to the privilege of visiting the tower, seeing the two aircraft at close quarters was a bonus, as we have all been shooed up steps into aeroplanes when really what we wanted to do was have a good look around the outside, and also seeing inside the cockpits, as we can no longer do so in flight, so the trip was much appreciated by all the visitors. Many thanks to Mark and Kristin for making the arrangements.