Flugsicherung im Kalten Krieg: Die Geschichte von Rhein Control - Der Betrieb der Flugsicherung im oberen Luftraum Süddeutschlands 1957-1977
Dieses Buch enthält einen historischen Tatsachenbericht und einen Kommentar zur Entwicklung der deutschen Flugsicherungszentrale RHEIN CONTROL, wie sie früher von der United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) und der früheren Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung (BFS) mit Unterstützung der deutschen Luftwaffe (GAF) in Birkenfeld-Nahe und Frankfurt/Main in Deutschland betrieben wurde. RHEIN CONTROL war und ist eine Flugsicherungszentrale für den oberen Luftraum, die früher nur für Süddeutschland zuständig war, jetzt aber auch die gesamte ehemalige DDR (Berlin UIR) abdeckt.
Diese Dokumentation wurde von Frank W. Fischer geschrieben, ehemaliger Fluglotse und Flugsicherungsexperte, der inzwischen 50 Jahre lang weltweit in der Flugsicherung tätig war und anfangs 25 Jahre lang bei der Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung in den Bereichen Kontrolle des oberen Luftraums, Flugsicherungsplanung und -erprobung gearbeitet hat. Beachten Sie bitte, dass diese Dokumentation ausschließlich in englischer Sprache verfügbar ist. Nachstehend können Sie einige Leseproben bzw. ausgewählte Kapitel aus diesem Buch lesen.
Fischer, Frank W. (Autor)
Auflage 2016, 552 Seiten
Verfügbar im Buchhandel
German Air Traffic Control During The Cold War: The Story of Rhein Control - The Operation of ATC in Southgermany's Upper Airspace 1957-1977
This book contains a historical facts report and commentary on the development of the German Air Traffic Control Centre RHEIN CONTROL as formerly operated by the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) and the former German Federal Administration for Air Navigation Services (BFS), assisted by the German Air Force (GAF) at Birkenfeld-Nahe and Frankfurt/Main in Germany. RHEIN CONTROL was and still is an upper airspace air traffic control (ATC) centre, formerly responsible for South Germany only, but now also covering all of former East Germany (Berlin UIR). This report is written by a former air traffic controller and air traffic control expert, who meanwhile actively spent 50 years in the ATC profession worldwide, and has had first served 25 years with the German Federal Administration for Air Navigation Services (Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung) in upper airspace area control operations, ATC planning and experimentation.
The Story of Rhein Control: What is behind that Name and what means Air Navigation?
This is a historical facts report and commentary on the development of the German Air Traffic Control Centre “RHEIN CONTROL” as formerly operated by the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) and the former German Federal Administration for Air Navigation Services (BFS), assisted by the German Air Force (GAF) at Birkenfeld-Nahe and Frankfurt/Main in Germany. Air Traffic Control is a primarily English speaking profession. Also therefore this report is written in English.
“Rhein Control” is the radio call sign of an air traffic control centre for the upper airspace of Southern Germany. Since 1957 it provided “air traffic services” above 19.500 feet of altitude and as of 1967 above 24.500 feet all over Southern Germany south of a line between the cities of Aachen and Kassel. It evolved from a direction finder control station of the 501st Tactical Control Wing of USAFE, which also operated from Erbeskopf under the radio call sign of CORNBEEF as part of the direction finder network to which also various other stations such as LOGROLL, GUNPOST and RACECARD of the air defence network of NATO belonged.
Unimaginably nowadays, decisions were taken by the German administration and the stationary forces, as the victorious powers were now called, whose consequences were not fully realized. In the case of ATC service provision in the upper airspace of South Germany USAFE was the „driver“. And so it happened. A tripartite unit was formed, managed as a military facility by The 619th Tactical Control Squadron of USAFE. If this chronicle gives the impression that Rhein Control was a pure US-military owned and operated ATC facility until August 1960, then this impression is correct. It was the cradle of a variety of air traffic control methods and operational procedures, which hitherto were either not required in civil air traffic services operations or unknown to all other ATS units under civil administration, and mainly handling only civil traffic.
This air navigation facility, its type of joint civil / military integrated operations and control procedures was unique throughout all of Western Europe until 1977, and also after it became a “co-located” civil / military centre (UAC & MATRAC) under EUROCONTROL until 1986. The evolution of this unique European air traffic (control) services centre was and still is manifold. Founded by the 12th US Air Force and established on Erbeskopf mountain in Rhineland-Palatinate in the mid 50’ies, in 1964 taken over by BFS, the centre moved on to Frankfurt airport in the spring of 1968 and further on to the city of Karlsruhe in 1977. There, it still exists as a unit of the German Air Navigation Services Limited Liability Company “Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH”.
The air traffic services (ATS), as performed by Rhein UAC form part of the overall preflight and in-flight air navigation services (ANS) under the idefinition of ICAO, as do the aeronautical information (AIS) and telecommunication (COM) services provided by states for the safeguarding of flights. Air traffic control (ATC) as part of the ATS establishes standard separation between flights for the avoidance of collision. In controlled airspace this is a service that one cannot reject. It was Rhein UAC’s philosophy to provide such services to civil and military flights alike within one and the same portion of the airspace by joint operations under the legal framework of ICAO.
West Germany’s Air Navigation Services after 1945
The reconstruction of the German air navigation system after the war was subject to the decisions of the Allied Occupation Forces. They began to establish their own air navigation services in the respective occupation zones. Only a very few flight routes were opened for flights to and over Germany. Civil flights within Germany were only conducted by French, British, American and Russian airlines.
Along the first airways (AWY) some kind of air traffic control (ATC) was provided. There were three air corridors to Berlin. The US Air Force soon established the two flight information regions (FIR) Frankfurt and München as well as a normal airways system, which was monitored by AACS units with the area control centers - ACC Frankfurt and München. The French established the Eastern FIR controlled by FIC Strassburg and the British the Bad Eilsen FIR with its ATCC, both providing flight information service - FIS only.
In May 1949 civil aviation departments were formed by the High Commissioners (HICOG) and the Allied Forces created an Allied Civil Aviation Board - CAB in Wiesbaden, consisting of an american, a british and a french element. In 1949 the american department began to hire the first german personnel, trained in Bremen on aerodrome and approach control- TWR & APP and assigned to aerodrome control towers in the US Zone. The RAF started the same in 1951. Area control - ACC continued to be performed by USAF directly, as of 1952 under ICAO rules. During 1951 and 1952 the german employees were also trained on area control by USAF and the US CAD at the newly established air navigation school at München-Riem airport. The first ACC staffed by only german personnel, transferred on 15.1.1953 to BFS, was München. Frankfurt ACC, first located in the IG-Farben building downtown Frankfurt/Main, was transferred to BFS in June 1953.
Until September 1952 no controlled airspace existed around civil airports in the british Zone. In 1951 the following advisory routes - ADR had been implemented as a forerunner of airways for the provision of air traffic advisory service - ADS : Düsseldorf – Gütersloh – Völkenrode + Düsseldorf – Germinghausen + Düsseldorf – Winterswijk. Towards the end of 1952 the CAB changed a few of these routes into controlled airways - CTA/AWY, i.e. Copenhagen – Hamburg – Frankfurt + Amsterdam – Winterswijk – Germinghausen – Frankfurt + Amsterdam – Eelde – Helgoland – Copenhagen. The british CAB began to train german personnel in October 1949. This personnel was trained in aeronautical information service - AIS and for flight data processing in the ATC service at airports in the british Zone. In December 1949 the german AIS personnel took over the responsibility for the provision of the AIS in accordance with ICAO rules. In December 1952 the “Vorbereitungsstelle” of BFS took over all AIS and its units.
In October 1951 training of german staff for the aerodrome control towers in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Hannover followed. Four courses were conducted in Hamburg. In preparation for the take-over of the area control service - ACC at the Bad Eilsen ATCC area control courses were conducted. In 1953 the airspace of the french Occupation Zone, initially part of the Strasbourg FIR was incorporated into the München FIR. Regarding aeronautical telecommunications the Allied Forces already applied ICAO SARPs as laid down in ICAO Annex 10. A central aeronautical telecommunication centre did not yet exist. Frankfurt finally came into the role of an international telecommunication centre, which it still is for Europe today. In 1952 direct telecommunication lines existed to London, Paris, Kopenhavn, Zürich, Prague and Linz, as well as to the USAF, RAF and FAF centres and all their AC&W stations of the air defence network. The first recommendations for a european airways system were made in 1951. These suggestions led to a corresponding plan, which was adopted by ICAO during its III. EUM Conference in Paris in February/March 1952. In 1956 the FRG joined ICAO as its 66th Member State.
The Requirements for the Establishment of the ATC(S) Centre “Rhein Control”
In the second half of the 1950’ies german aviation was still in the process of reconstruction after the political restrictions of the war’s aftermath had mostly been lifted. In the west of Germany during those times one flew with the revived Lufthansa in two-engine, tail-wheel DC-3’s or with the Convair CV-340 Metropolitan. For farther destinations one used Lockheed’s Constellation (L-749) and the “Super-Connie” (L-1049), one of the most elegant airplanes of all times. Other airlines, such as Pan American World Airways (PAA) flew the 4-engined Boeing Stratocruiser (B-337) and the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, followed by the DC-6, mainly on their flights to Berlin. British European Airways (BEA) used the British made Elizabethan, Ambassador and De Havilland Heron, while Air France operated double-decker Deux Ponts (Breguet 763) and also the DC-4.
Smaller airlines began conducting vacation flights with the Vickers Viking, a two-engine tail-wheel airplane, the De Havilland Rapide and the Convair 240. Most flights had destinations on the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. In other countries the development in aircraft manufacture was naturally more advanced and aircraft reached higher altitudes and farther destinations. This led to the appearance of ever more civil turbine-powered airplanes in the upper airspace, which until that time had been the domain of predominantly military high performance aircraft. To the category of these aircraft belonged the British Vickers Viscount and the Bristol Britannia, the American Lockheed Elektra, the Canadian CL-44 Yukon, the Vickers Vanguard and the Russian Ilyushin – 18, all of them 4-engine turbine aircraft and some with service ceilings up to 30.000 feet.
The air forces of the western states used mainly transporters like the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, the De Havilland Canada C-133 Yukon and the Boeing KC-97 Tanker (a Stratocruiser with two additional jet engines). Military transporters like the C-160 Transall appeared only years later. The air forces of the NATO countries mainly operated pure jet-turbine powered aircraft as bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, trainers and interceptors. Here one saw the Lockheed T-33, the CM-170 Fouga Magister, the North American F-84 Thunderflash, the F-86 Sabre, the B-66 Destroyer, the French Vautour and Mirage, the British Hawker Hunter and Canberra and in short succession thereafter the American F-100 Super-Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, the English Electric Lightning, advanced versions of the Mirage, the US-made B-47 Stratojet and the B-57H, later on followed by the Lockheed F-104A + G Starfighter, the F-105 Thunderchief and the F4 Phantom.
In civil aviation the first jet airliners also appeared in the mid 50’ies, such as the British De Havilland Comet (4), the American B-707 Stratoliner, the French Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle and the Russian Tupolev TU-104 with tremendous performance. Since all these airplanes flew faster and higher, the risk of collision increased tremendously. Civilian and military conclusions resulted in the demand for controlled airspace and the provision of separation between flights under air traffic control.
Rhein Control’s Forerunner and Development: The 602nd and 501st Tactical Control / Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadrons, and Cornbeef D/F & Control
It might be helpful to learn about some of the background and forerunners which led to the establishment of RHEIN CONTROL as a military air navigation facility. It all began with various units of USAFE settling at their new locations after the war in the south of Germany. This development resulted in the establishment of remotely located USAFE bases like Hahn, Bitburg, Spangdahlem, Sembach, Giebelstadt, Zweibrücken, Ramstein, Fürstenfeldbruck, Erding, Leipheim, Lechfeld and so forth.
Regarding civil flying activities only the civil airlines of the occupation forces, PANAM, BEA and AIR FRANCE operated from the german civil airports of Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, Köln, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Nürnberg and Berlin, as did Aeroflot and DDR-DLH in East Germany. The general political situation in the world became more and more tense, resulting in much greater flying activity by the additional squadrons of the US Forces being relocated mainly to Germany, France and the United Kingdom during those years.
Names like Etain, Laon, Evreux, Chateroux, Pfahlsbourg, Toul, Chaumont in France and Lakenheath, Upper Heyford, Brize Norton, Boscombe Down, Wethersfield, Alconbury, Mildenhall, Alconbury, Bentwaters and Woodbridge in the UK will certainly be familiar to pilots and controllers of those years, as will Moron, Getafe, Zaragossa and Torrejon in Spain, not mentioning the bases in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Greece and Turkey with Wheelus air base in Libya and Nouasseur in Morocco being the farthest to reach over water.
The 602nd and 501st Tactical Control / Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadrons
Let us take a look at the various predecessors of RHEIN CONTROL over those years. The 602nd TCS moved to the town of Birkenfeld in 1948 and set up Birkenfeld Air Base. In early 1955, the decision was made to move the 602nd AC&W squadron to Giebelstadt, Germany, and on 5 December 1955, control over Birkenfeld air base passed to the 619th Tactical Control Squadron. This unit provided a whole palette of differing services to military airspace users between 1948 and 1955. The squadron’s mission was to provide early warning radar coverage to the limits of its equipment and to provide navigation assistance to all allied aircraft flying over the occupied western zones of Germany and its neighbouring countries under the radio call sign of CORNBEEF.
Cornbeef D/F & Control
In addition to the installation of search (AN/CPS-1) and height finder (AN/CPS-4) radars on the technical site at Erbeskopf, the 602nd also established, manned and operated several radio relay sites under the call sign of ZERO THREE ZULU and direction finder sites (D/F). The call sign changed to COMBED D/F, which ultimately was designated a net control master station and directed the position fixing efforts of five other sites in the Northern Europe UHF D/F net. CORNBEEF and those stations in the south of Germany (LOGROLL, GUNPOST and RACECARD) had been under the command of the 501st Tactical Control Wing. The 501st TCW under the 12th Air Force of USAFE was finally tasked to establish an ATS unit at Birkenfeld to be operated by AACS. In 1956 the 1807th AACS wing, HQ USAFE and 12th Air Force, AACS tried to convince 12th Air Force to let BFS provide the ATS in the upper airspace, because they had the legal jurisdiction over this portion of the airspace. The next meeting on 12 December at HQ BFS in Frankfurt agreed to declare the airspace above 20.000 feet to be controlled airspace, whereas the MoT of the FRG in a meeting with USAFE on 27 November had already declared not to be in a position to provide ATS above 20.000 feet within the forthcoming years. Finally, a 7424th Support squadron became the operator of Rhein Control under HQ USAFE ADVON command.
Rhein Control’s Environment, the Town of Birkenfeld and US Air Base History (USAFE’s Birkenfeld Air Base)
In the wake of earlier agreements between the USA and France, the base and several technical site locations, were turned over to advance elements of the 602nd Tactical Control Squadron (TCS) of USAFE during the summer and fall of 1948. The 602nd TCS had been established in 1947 in Goddelau near Darmstadt – Griesheim, now an abandoned US Army airfield. This 602nd TCS was then re-designated the 602nd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) squadron on 23 November 1948, just before the unit moved from Darmstadt military post, Germany, to Birkenfeld.
Birkenfeld airbase was USAFE’s administrative headquarters for RHEIN CONTROL. Only BFS, the german Federal Administration for Air Navigation Services, maintained its detachment office on Erbeskopf, as did the German Air Force until the time when their telecommunications regiment had moved onto the new base in 1965, the “Heinrich-Hertz” kaserne just outside Birkenfeld in the “Schönewald” forest. Between 1958 and 1960 USAFE personnel at Birkenfeld was only 65 persons, not counting dependants. BFS staff counted 32 and GAF 22.
The 602nd was the first american unit to move into the french zone. Birkenfeld, since then, has remained to be an “Air Force town” with the German Air Force having completed their own base around 1965 at the opposite side of the town for their telecommunications (signal) regiment. After Birkenfeld Air Base was closed its tenant, the then 615th AC&W squadron, moved to Neubrücke 98th US Military General Hospital area in 1969.
Rhein Control, an entirely US military ATC Centre until September 1960
Regarding RHEIN CONTROL’s operation and to understand its organization one needs an overview on its internal organizational structure, technical set-up, operational layout and procedures. As mentioned earlier the 619th TCS, succeeded by the 7424th SUPPRON of USAFE owned and operated RHEIN UAC as an entirely US military facility in providing air traffic services to all flights in the South German upper airspace as of 1 June 1957 mainly in accordance with ICAO standards and recommended practices (SARP) as contained in Annex 11 (Air Traffic Services - ATS) to the Convention, in Document 4444 (Procedures Air Navigation Services - Rules of the Air and Air Traffic Services - PANS-RAC). The 7424th Support Squadron was assisted by two german personnel detachments providing civil (BFS) and military (GAF) ATS personnel for the joint operation of the centre.
Before January 1960 by publication of BFS NOTAM A 1/60 and the previous announcement of BFS of 1 August 1959 by NOTAM A 31/59 on the repeated implementation of ATS by BFS in the UIRs, the provision of ATS in the Frankfurt UIR by the 619th TCS and the 7424th Support Squadron under 17th Air Force command of USAFE legally constituted the same provision of ATS than those of BFS. But USAFE’s staff was not properly licensed for civil traffic. The establishment of Rhein Control in June 1957 as successor of CORNBEEF CONTROL mainly in accordance with ICAO standards had already legalised the provision of these air navigation services to GAT by the transfer of the authority for high altitude traffic control as part of Germany’s sovereign rights in the national airspace by the german government to USAFE.
And it should not be forgotten that Rhein Control’s ATS operation under USAFE command had provided a more extensive ATS, namely air traffic control service throughout this UIR without an upper limit until autumn 1959; and that mainly BFS’ limitations and RAF considerations had caused the later reduction of ATC service provision to the altitude band of 19.500 to 25.000 feet MSL inclusive. In1958 headquarters USAFE decided to transfer the operational responsibility over the Birkenfeld centre from the 501st TCW, previously responsible for the direction finder network, to its own “ADVON” section. It resembles the agreed lines of command and coordination between the different parties as concluded by USAFE, the German Ministry of Transport, BFS, GAF, US AACS and US CAA on 11 April 1958. The command and coordination lines of 1958 show that (1) the authority for high altitude traffic control will be transferred by the German Government to USAF, with headquarters USAFE acting for USAF; (2) provision is made for a later revocation of high altitude control responsibility by the German Government and corresponding assignment to BFS; (3) for an undetermined interim period the commander USAFE will appoint administrative and advisory staff to operate the Birkenfeld ATC Facility with representatives of BFS, US CAA, GAF and the US AACS, as well as with the 12th Air Force USAFE Chief of High Altitude Traffic Control (= Rhein UAC) and the AACS Squadron Commander.
Rhein Control’s Operation at Birkenfeld under the Regime of BFS
During the years after the transfer of responsibility for ATS operations to BFS and until the relocation of the centre to Frankfurt airport in April 1968 a number of significant changes and incidents occurred. Now the scene has been set for this jointly operated civil / military ATS centre for the upper airspace and the traffic volume increased considerably to totally underestimated amounts, 14% annually, civil as well as military. The weak response of BFS, differing interests of the GAF and the stepwise withdrawal of USAFE from its logistic services all had a negative effect on Rhein Control's operation over the forthcoming years.
After the USAF/RCAF mid-air collision had taken place and negotiations of the MoT, BFS, the controllers' association VDF and the trade unions had failed, transport minister Dr. Seebohm finally decided to visit Rhein UAC, but, as to be expected, did not initiate any change to the better. The first president of BFS never visited the centre during his whole 16-year long tour of duty. So far for their interests in the matter and the facility.
Air Traffic Control: Cold War and Rhein Control - A new Home and new Procedures
Rhein Control arrives at Frankfurt, its staff is preoccupied with personal matters, moving households, finding accommodation, registering the family, putting children in new schools and trying to settle in a new community. The centre itself, now being a sub-unit of the Frankfurt RANSU, whose management only observes Rhein’s operation from a distance, two km away in the new airport terminal, had not at all been brought to a required standard as regards its manpower, room size, number of sectors, equipment and procedures. And traffic now began to soar and the centre’s superiors lacked knowledge completely on upper airspace civil and military matters. Responsible members of BFS management avoided to visit the unit fearing to be attacked by the controllers with the many shortcomings and problems that they faced day-in and day-out for years.
In fact, Rhein UAC at Frankfurt had only been planned as an “Interim Solution” for a period of about three years, before EUROCONTROL’s plans would become reality. It was the same experience as in the 60’ies. What was proclaimed as a short-term measure lasted eight years and longer. EUROCONTROL being officially responsible and BFS, its agent, first had to make up their mind whether Rhein UAC should finally be relocated to Maastricht in the Netherlands or to Karlsruhe or to stay at Frankfurt before it was concluded to definitely move to Karlsruhe together with the centre’s GAF component, which still constituted a relatively small group only at the time of the move.
In this chapter emphasis is put also on legal issues of the unit’s service provision. We are still in the era of analogue radar, wire-based telephones and the first steps into digitalization; CRT displays. The first flight was handled on 24 April 1968 from the new facility in the old airport terminal at Frankfurt / Main. Technicians and controllers fought for space. Controllers demanded more workspace and room to move, whereas technicians argued for optimum equipment configuration. Different consoles and new analogue radar displays had been installed.
The ATS operations chief of the RANSU and the facility superintendent were never seen in the UAC. For the latter two, upper airspace matters constituted another planet. That made Rhein UAC’s daily life again more difficult. Maintenance technicians showed no understanding of Rhein’s requirements and often negated operational necessities, tolerated by the RANSU’s management, which even persuaded technicians to make false and defamatory unjustified statements against controllers. This sounds strange, but is a fact. Competent controllers were considered the “enemy”.
Technical maintenance was located in between the Frankfurt ACC and Rhein UAC operations rooms. The one-channel long-range radar used was a Telefunken GRS located between Frankfurt and Heidelberg (Neunkirchner Heights), serving both the ACC and the UAC. Its SSR became officially commissioned only in 1970. Frankfurt ACC already moved into the newly erected terminal in December 1970. GRS-fed radar scopes were horizontally mounted providing coverage up to 120 NM in range up to 40.000 feet altitude. For Rhein’s operation four radar positions were available, three of them for joint-use by the subsectors and one stand-alone for the handling of OAT-RD military VFR flights by the GAF. All subsectors were again equipped with one VHF and one UHF radio frequency, however now coupled so that civil pilots could also hear the transmissions of military pilots and vice versa.
There were again two watch supervisor positions with the civil supervisor still acting as EUROCONTROL’s agent. The GAF section, designated as MATRAC, again supported Rhein UAC with military ATS staff, limited to 14 hours on weekdays only and officially being charged with the handling of OAT VFR traffic due to their dramatic shortage of licensed military controllers.
South Germany’s Upper Airspace Structure and Route Network
The new dividing line between lower and upper airspace was set at 20.000 feet MSL. Frankfurt flight information region (FIR) was divided between the FIR and the UIR. FL 195 or 19.500 feet of altitude was only used for VFR flight. It should be noted that during those times standard vertical separation for flight above FL 400 was 3000 feet, whereas 2000 feet had to be applied between FL 290 and 400. The reason was the given inaccuracy of aircraft altimeters.
In considering the development of the area of responsibility of Rhein UAC one must look back to the years of the US Occupation Zone before the three German flight information regions (FIR) were established. During the late 40’ies and until the establishment of BFS in 1953 most flight movements were conducted at altitudes up to 20.000 feet and controlled by the RAF in the North (British Zone), by the Soviets in the East (Russian Zone), by USAF and the US Army in the South and Southeast (US Zone) and by the FAF in the Southwest (French Zone).
Before 1960 and for all practical purposes this left all airspace above 20.000 feet for flight operations, such as air defence and other military training missions with jet-type aircraft, under air defence units. In the formerly still uncontrolled upper airspace USAFE and the FAF provided direction finder, flight information and radar direction services until 1957. As of June 1957 Rhein Control assumed the role of providing air traffic control (ATC) and flight information service (FIS).
Parts of the CTA still consisted of Advisory Routes (ADR) and the ADIZ covered only South Germany. As of January 1960 this whole area was designated as Frankfurt UIR with an embedded UTA between 20.000 and 25.000 feet and Rhein Control provided ATC and FIS to all civil and military flights in this airspace. With civil turbo-prop aircraft appearing on the sky a few years later ICAO concluded in 1958 on the establishment of FIRs and UIRs in differentiating between lower and upper airspace and corresponding route networks, formed by airways, advisory and predetermined routes (ICAO EUM Conference 1958).
Meanwhile BFS, three FIRs and two UIRs (Hannover and Frankfurt) existed and Germany had regained limited sovereignty (1955). By that time the lower airspace had been fairly well regulated in accordance with ICAO rules. The upper airspace, however, remained practically unregulated until NATO/CEAC and ICAO agreed on the official implementation of upper control areas (UTA) and the network of predetermined routes (PDR) in 1959. But the civil airspace users were not satisfied at all and so ICAO’s VI European & Mediterranean Regional Air Navigation Conference dealt with the matter again.
The meeting concluded that ATC should be provided in all those circumstances where this service is required. States having responsibility for ATS routes should provide controlled ATS routes and the relevant ground facilities (navaids) needed for navigation. The ATS system should be devised so as to provide for the least number of FIRs and related CTAs with realistic operating conditions, be procedurally “fail safe”, provide for the safe and expeditious handling of air traffic, assign responsibility to a single authority to provide ATS within any delineated area. Controlled airspace should be established to encompass the entire en-route portion of IFR flights. Air Traffic Advisory Service should only be considered as a temporary expedient.
Civil and Military Air Traffic
In March 1957 the 1820th AACS Group reported an average of 10 civil flights per day. Complete records on the traffic in 1957 no longer exist, but other reports mention 96 civil and 631 military flights on one day, 4.839 IFR training flights above 20.000 feet in April, 5.277 in May and 4.919 in June, an overall number of about 65.000 flights annually for 1957.
Typical traffic situations occurred mainly during the morning hours up to 1200 hours, during afternoon hours after 1330 hours and in the early evening hours until 2300 hours local time, all normally lasting for two to three hours in duration. The normal split between general (GAT) and operational (OAT) air traffic during those years was 80 % for OAT and 20 % for GAT. This relation remained unchanged for a long time and began to differ significantly for GAT as of 1967, which rose to 60% in 1968, mainly due to the military flights now often conducted without any air traffic service provision or under Non – ATS military radar stations. In 1968 over 100 different civil airlines operated in the upper airspace. Military traffic was originated mainly by USAFE, GAF, GNY, RAF, RCAF, BAF, RNAF, RDAF, FAF and the IAF. During 29 May 1967, for instance, 54 flights were under control and in radio contact with Rhein UAC within a 15 minute period, handled by two controllers only.
Air Defense as Rhein Control’s Partner
The Air Defence organization under the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force (ATAF) for the south of Germany was a closely related partner of Rhein UAC, with Rhein Control having evolved from its forerunner, the 619th TCS, which was part of the air defence system. The separation between the air defence and the air traffic services (ATS) organizations in this portion of the upper airspace only became permanent reality with the establishment of Rhein UAC in 1957. Since then practically two groups of service providers existed for military flights, one in providing “radar direction services” (Flugmelde- und Leitdienst = Aircraft Control & Warning) to certain tactical OAT (ORA, and OAT/CR) flights and the other in providing “air traffic services” to OAT and non-OAT flights, with the latter, again, consisting of civil and military flights.
As regards the ICAO ATS two organizations existed, namely the one under the mandate of BFS, running civil ATS units and owning the airspace, and the other under the mandate of the Federal Armed and the Stationary (NATO) Forces, running military ATS units. Altogether four parties operated within one and the same airspace. In West Germany after 4/59 this resulted in the provision of ATS (ATC, FIS, ALRS) at military air bases of the Federal Armed Forces and their associated CTRs and MTMAs, while Rhein UAC was the provider of area control service.
Until 1977 the ATS at the civil international and regional airports were provided by BFS, and all traffic en-route was provided ATS by the three ACCs of BFS at Hannover, Frankfurt and München in the lower airspace. In the upper airspace above 19.500 feet the ATS (ACC, FIS and ALRS) were provided by Hannover and Rhein UACs. With the move of the UAC to Karlsruhe this situation changed for Rhein UIR traffic.
The counterpart of the „ATS systems“ in accordance with the standards of ICAO are the „Air Defence Systems“ as first operated by the Stationary Forces under NATO command (RAF, USAF and FAF / CAF). As regards West Germany the air defence organization operated three sector operations centres (SOC) and altogether ten control and reporting centres and posts (CRC / CRP).
BFS units under the law on BFS and the ICAO Convention were entitled to handle all types of traffic, civil or military, GAT, OAT or security, whereas the later military “area control” units were only entitled to handle OAT flights. The picture only changed, when the FRG in 1965 transferred its mandate for the handling of traffic in the upper airspace to EUROCONTROL, which was only allowed to handle GAT flights due to its status as a supra-national organization. It remains to be a question if the delegation of jurisdiction over the UIRs from BFS to EUROCONTROL did not actually constitute a “state to state agreement” over the national airspace.
The Role of the German Air Force at Rhein UAC
This partnership between BFS and the GAF over the past 20 years varied significantly in form dependent on the external parties involved. In 1957, when Rhein Control was established as a USAFE ATS unit the local parties were USAFE with the 619th TCS and the 7424th SUPPRON, BFS and the GAF with their personnel detachments and superior organizations, being 17th Air Force and headquarters USAFE (ADVON), BFS headquarters and the MoT, and the Telecommunications (Signal) Regiment 12 of the GAF and their MoD.
In North Germany’s upper airspace (Hannover UIR) Area Control (ATC) and Flight Information Services were first provided by the RAF as “Hannover Military” for military flights (later on OAT) in cooperation with Hannover UAC/UIC as “Hannover Control / Information” for all civil (later GAT) flights at a co-located unit, Hannover ACC as of 1955. In South Germany’s upper airspace Area Control (ATC) and FIS were first provided by the USAFE as “CORNBEEF Control” for all military (later OAT) and civil (later GAT) flights and as of June 1957 as “Rhein Control (UAC)” at the integrated ATS unit at Birkenfeld for all civil and military traffic.
When USAFE at Rhein UAC turned over all ATS Operations at this facility, maintained by the 7424th Support Squadron of the 17th Air Force in September 1960 to BFS, the sole provider of ATS in the form of Area Control service and FIS became BFS, internally assisted by GAF ATS staff, which were only few. This military component of the BFS UAC was then called “Flugsicherungs-Bereichszentrale” (FS-Ber-Z 11/12), but a proper mandate for calling this a separate center did not exist, because of the two above mentioned ministries’ decision of 1959.
The situation changed upruptly in September 1960, when BFS assumed responsibility for ATS operations and USAFE withdrew all its controllers, leaving the control of all military flights into the hands of the civil controllers. Now only civilians were allowed, respectively forced to control all this traffic. As can easily be understood, this led to tension with the remaining GAF controllers, who were integrated into the civilian BFS teams. GAF controllers, enlisted men, NCO and officers, now had civilian supervisors, were not allowed to control traffic anymore, but had to perform assistant, coordinator or support functions only. The workload for the civil controllers increased to an irresponsible level over the next years. German soldiers only worked day shifts excluding the weekends. When the Erbeskopf area and its installations had been a sole USAFE facility before with the BFS as its tenant, it became a BFS facility in 1964 with the GAF as its only partner in ATS operations.
The Influence of EUROCONTROL on Rhein UAC
EUROCONTROL, the “European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation”, has its seat in Brussels and comprises a “Permanent Commission” and an “Air Traffic Services Agency”. Founded in 1960 its Convention came into effect in March 1963. In January 1964 the organization informed the aviation community about its structure and objectives as follows. “The COMMISSION is composed of representatives of the Contracting Parties and its objective is to promote, in cooperation with the national military authorities, the adoption of measures and the installation and operation of facilities to ensure the safety of air navigation and an orderly and rapid flow of air traffic. Staff and facilities for the operation of the Commission are to be made available by the Agency.”
“The purpose of the AGENCY is to provide, within the airspace defined in the Convention, air traffic services for the prevention of collisions between aircraft, to ensure the orderly and rapid flow of air traffic, to provide advice and information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flight and to notify appropriate organizations regarding aircraft in need of search and rescue aid, and assist such organizations as required.” In the spring of 1962 the EUROCONTROL Agency submitted the so-called “MEDIATOR” plan, which foresaw an integration of civil and military ATS, in contradiction to its earlier policy. Only Germany also concluded to the same effect for its UIRs, in harmony with NATO’s 2nd ATAF (RAF) in North Germany.
In order to create a close connection to air defence they all agreed to establish these integrated units into the air defence centres at Uedem in the North and on Erbeskopf (bunker “Erwin”) in the South, practically bringing civil air traffic operations into a subordinate role. In 1963 a corresponding simulation took place at the FAA’s NAFEC test centre in Atlantic City / USA without participation of the BFS for an evaluation of this proposed concept. But its functionality failed and the move into the bunker should not take place. On 13 February 1964 BFS informed the aviation community with NOTAM A 11/64 (NfL A) that the EUROCONTROL Agency will assume responsibility for the provision of air traffic services to air traffic in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention also in the german UIRs Hannover and Frankfurt/Rhein at FL 200 and above as of 1 March 1964. The FRG had delegated all of its upper airspace to the EUROCONTROL Agency.
Rhein Control: Operational Shortcomings and Incidents
In 1972, a report on the shortcomings of the ATS - System in the upper airspace of Germany, addressed to Department L 6 of the German Ministry for Transport, served the purpose of presentation and discussion with the “Commission on the Consultation of existing Problems in Air Navigation” and especially the air traffic services in the Federal Republic of Germany. The response to this report by the MOT, by BFS and the AFSBw was “nil”!
ANSE’s report on the ATS problems in the upper airspace to the MoT’s Schlieker Committee was the only input on this subject to the committee. It was never discussed by the committee, but instead handed to the president of BFS for further action, who in turn, also did not act on it. Thus, the elaboration and submission of the report had become meaningless. The Schlieker-Committee did not deal with upper airspace matters at all and the requirements were simply ignored by all parties involved.
In 1970 also a meeting between NATO / CEAC’s Technical Sub-Committee and IATA took place on the “Progress of Civil/Military ATS Systems in NATO – Europe Standardization”. The report quotes IATA as saying that the progress in implementing agreed ICAO controlled routes and associated procedures continues to be very slow. This is evidenced, they said, by the increasing numbers of air miss reports received by IATA and one of the major causes would be the mixture of IFR and VFR traffic above FL 200. Furthermore, that it was apparent from the review of near miss incidents, that some of them in reality were interceptions between military airplanes. IATA, therefore, re-commended that authorization for VFR flight between sunset and sunrise and above FL 200 only be granted in ex-ceptional circumstances, applicable to both civil and military flights
In 1970 the IATA regional office had received 302 air miss reports. 250 referred to NATO member states. On only 79 of these reports had IATA received a reply from the aviation administrations. The most typical causes were said to be the mixture of IFR and VFR civil & military traffic and ineffective civil/military ATC coordination. In 70% of all near misses a military aircraft was involved and in 57% the other aircraft was above FL 200. The following reply by the administration in response to a controller enquiry was typical.
Subject: AIR NAVIGATION AND THE SAFETY OF AIR TRAFFIC
Enclosed, the Frankfurt RANSU sends the letter of Mr. Frank W Fischer, ATC employee, and the respective statement of the chief of Rhein UAC to this letter. The subject matter as described by Mr. Fischer is correct and known to headquarters BFS. A solution, commensurate to the proper solution of the described problem could so far not be found by the Frankfurt RANSU, despite multiple efforts, as is also described in the statement of the chief Rhein UAC, since in this matter only changes can be initiated at higher level. The RANSU points out that the reported circumstances and situation are unacceptable, since the safety of air traffic cannot be guaranteed by the RANSU under the reported circumstances. This fact is not only a burden to controllers and supervisors, but also to the management of the unit to an unbearable degree since years. The RANSU therefore requests to undertake all possible effort for the removal of these grievances. Signed: FLENTJE, LdF, Frankfurt RANSU to HQ BFS
Nothing was corrected and what remained were hundreds of proximity reports by aircraft, one shoot-down, one mid-air collision, avoidable serious accidents of military aircraft , illegal border crossings, all in contrast to safe and orderly operations.
Professional Career & Social Welfare at Birkenfeld’s Rhein Control
Civilian ATS personnel arriving at Birkenfeld immediately felt being illegally assigned there outside german legislation as far as the performance of ATC service under foreign military regulations and to mainly military flights, developed. This situation, however, remained unclarified for all civil staff until at least 1964, when Rhein Control became an independent solely german civil operated air navigation unit, assisted by the GAF.
The integration into the teams of the responsible USAF squadrons (first the 619th TCS, then the 7424th SUPPRON) and the assignment of equivalent US military officers' rank plus military logistic support contributed to this "feeling". One was suddenly part of US military life, had to pay all expenses in US dollars and was permitted to use all military installations and facilities. To purchase and pay with US dollars required special permission from a state bank. Duty orders came from USAF supervisors. This whole arrangement became legally based on the USA & FRG state agreement only in 1959, which ceased as late as April 1968.
Whereas US military, German Air Force and BFS civil controllers enjoyed equal status under USAF facility command from June 1957 to September 1960 with BFS controllers being given equivalent US military officer status. This situation changed upruptly in September 1960, when BFS assumed responsibility for ATS operations, leaving the control of all military flights into the hands of the civil controllers.
An administrative official of BFS took care of adherence to proper german administrative governmental procedures, which were often violated, when it came to postal secrecy, correct operational incident investigation and the suppression of reports, complaints, suggestions and correspondence by Rhein Control's staff and BFS at Frankfurt. One normally was better off in dealing with USAF than with BFS superiors. This even lead to falsification of working position logs, the erasure of magnetic voice tape recordings and irresponsible operational work orders by “the office”. Private mail was opened with the assistance of the german PTT and telephones were tapped. Personal data security was an unknown term.
Active membership in the controllers professional association GATCA, union activity and chairmanship of the unit's works council apparently were too much for BFS. When the unit's staff decided to form its own works council in 1961, this move was almost considered as an attack by BFS and the required cooperation of the unit's administration with the works council proved less than minimal, turning into a formality only. Controllers became frustrated in significant numbers and the ones that had a chance to take up other ATC assignments with ICAO, BFS, EUROCONTROL or outside Europe did leave as soon as they could. The rest held through until the move of the centre to Frankfurt airport in April 1968. However, a fact withheld from controllers was that the german government was not protecting them from consequences of operational incidents and accidents, because they were serving a military organization of a foreign nation.