On Oct 3rd 2012,  the Barcelona local network of the IET paid a visit to the Control tower of the main Barcelona city airport "El Prat". We were received by the tower  supervisor, the staff member responsible for the IT system and by the person responsible for the radar system.

We began the visit quite literally from the Top as we were led up to the top of the tower were the full extent of the airport can be seen. This includes the long runaway on the north side running east-west where aircraft land, a smaller parallel run away on the south where aircraft take off and a third one that crosses the two south-north mainly used for night operations that avoids excessive neighbourhood noise pollution since the aircraft approach the airport from the sea.

As expected, procedures are quite strict and the utmost is done to ensure safety. Radar technology is extensively used to detect approaching aircraft and to request an identification code through automated radio signalling to the aircraft   transponder. This is cross-checked with the flight data stored in the information system of the tower.  Surface radar then provides the greater accuracy needed within a 10km radius of the airport, with the hand-over from one radar to the other automatically completed by the system so that the operators can continuously track the aircraft on their monitors. Eventually, a system of emitters/receivers provide the aircraft location through the multilateration technique when it is landing and taxing over the airport boundary.

All in all an excellent way to see how technology is used to operate a complex traffic system aiding the controllers in their work, whilst enhancing the security for passengers and staff.

Stay in touch with our network to learn more about future visits.

See photograph here

Gianni Cessel

Robert Heaton