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Draft only: May 2007

AC 172-03(0)
MAY 2007
1. References 1
2. Purpose 1
3. Status of this AC 1
4. Abbreviations 2
5. Introduction 2
6. Building Characteristics 2
7. Control Tower Cab Eye Level 3
8. Determination of Minimum Eye
Level 3
9. Detection of Commencement of
Aircraft Take-off Run 5
10. Detection Criteria and Formula 5
11. Determination of Response Times
Relative to Runway Ends and
Existing or Proposed Tower Position 6
12. Site Approval 7

Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part
172 Air Traffic Service Providers.
ICAO PANS-OPS (Doc 9426).
This Advisory Circular (AC) provides
guidance and information on the design of
Air Traffic Control towers.
This is the first AC to be written on this
Advisory Circulars are intended to provide advice and guidance to illustrate a means, but not
necessarily the only means, of complying with the Regulations, or to explain certain regulatory
requirements by providing informative, interpretative and explanatory material.
Where an AC is referred to in a Note below the regulation, the AC remains as guidance material.
ACs should always be read in conjunction with the referenced regulations.
Advisory Circular
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CASA Civil Aviation Safety Authority
CASR Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization
5.1 Control Tower Requirements
5.1.1 Introduction - The following Control Tower requirements should be read in
conjunction with ICAO Document 9426 (the ATS Planning Manual), CASR Part 172
(Air Traffic Service Providers), and the Manual of Standards (MOS) for Part 172
Chapter 3.
5.1.2 Siting Criteria - The control tower should be located at a site which:
(a) enables proper control cab orientation;
(b) is as close as practicable to the thresholds of all runways and/or strips. Where
certain directions are used more than others and/or where an ILS system exists, the
control tower should be located closer to those thresholds;
(c) minimises the adverse affects on the performance of existing or forecast
navigational aids; and
(d) enables clear lines of sight, unimpaired by direct or indirect external light sources
such as apron lights, car parking lights, surface traffic and street lights and
reflective surfaces.
5.1.3 Additional Siting Considerations - Siting and cab height at the tower location should
take into consideration factors such as:
(a) enhancement of visual resolution by ensuring that the air traffic controllers line-
of-sight is perpendicular or oblique, rather than parallel to the line established by
the aircraft and ground vehicle movement and where the line-of-sight intersects
the aerodrome ground surface at a vertical angle equal to or greater than 35
minutes of arc; and
(b) locating the control tower structure north of the main aerodrome control activity
area, so that the majority of observations by air traffic controllers are to the south.
If this is not possible, then the alternatives of siting the structure to the west, south
and east should be considered in that order. Siting that entails a view of the
runway approach in line with a rising or setting sun should be avoided.
6.1 The following characteristics should be incorporated in the building design of the
control tower:
(c) the design should provide for minimal glare and external noise;
(d) anti-glare blinds or other such devices should be provided;
(e) the consoles and displays should be positioned so as to take into account any
reflection or glare which is likely to affect operation of the equipment;
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(f) suitable minimum or non-glare lighting should be provided to allow controllers to
read and record information;
(g) adequate storage areas to accommodate manuals and documents should be
provided in the tower cabin;
(h) lighting inside the tower cab should be arranged so that it does not diminish the
ability of the controller to survey the aerodrome and its vicinity at night;
(i) toilet amenities should be no further than one level below the control tower cab;
(j) a food preparation and storage area should be provided in a location convenient
for use by control tower staff; and
(k) where consoles abut the outer walls, front access to equipment modules should be
provided for ease of maintenance.
7.1 To meet the minimum requirements for visual resolution, the line-of-site from the air
traffic controllers eye level in the tower cab should intersect the ground surface at a
minimum angle of 30 minutes of arc in cases where the viewing distance is less than 1650
metres, or at a minimum angle of 35 minutes of arc in all other cases.
7.2 This requires the determination of:
(a) those areas where adequate visibility is the most difficult to obtain; and
(b) the grade of the ground surface in those areas.
7.3 Care should be taken in determining the grade of these areas. For example, where the
section in question consists of a rising taxiway grade levelling off at a runway end (the
farthest point), the grade of the runway threshold in the direction of the line-of-site is the
critical grade. The movement of aircraft and ground vehicles on the taxiway will be
discernible only if the 35 minute of arc angle is established relative to the runway grade.
This also enables the relative positions of aircraft and ground vehicles on the runway to be
determined. On the other hand, if the taxiway grade slopes down to the runway end (the
farthest point), the 35 minutes of arc minimum angle should be established relative to the
8.1 Assuming the minimum line-of-sight grade intersection angle of 35 minutes of arc and
following determination of the angular slope of the aircraft traffic surface in question, the
minimum eye-level elevation for a particular tower site in relation to the most distant
runway threshold can be determined by the following formula:
E(e) = E(as) + D Tan (35min. + G(s))
= Eye level elevation
E(as) = Average elevation for section of airport traffic surface in question
D = Distance from proposed control tower site to section of airport traffic
surface in question
G(s) = Angular slope of airport traffic surface measured from horizontal
and in direction of proposed control tower site.
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Example 1

= ? E(e) = 30m + 3000m Tan (35min - 2 min)
E(as) = 30m D = 3000m =
30m + 3000m Tan 33min
G(s) = -2min = 30m + 3000m x 0.0096
= 30m + 28.8m
= 58.8m (Above Ground Level)

Example 2

= ? E(e) = 30m + 3000m Tan (35min - 2min)
E(as) = 30m = 30m + 3000m (Tan 37min)
D = 3000m = 30m + 3000m x 0.01076
G(s) = 2min = 30m + 32.28m
= 62.28m (Above Ground Level)
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9.1 To permit the speedy and safe control of other aircraft movements, it is necessary for
the air traffic controller to detect movement of the departing aircraft as soon as possible after
it has commenced its take-off run. In practice there is normally some delay in the air traffic
controller detecting the commencement of aircraft movement, and this delay is known as the
response time.
9.2 In siting the control tower, the objective should be to choose a location which gives
the shortest possible response times to the runway ends. Response times should desirably be
kept below 4 seconds with an upper limit of 5 seconds in exceptional circumstances. The
initial step of siting a tower should be to satisfy the response time criterion and identify
suitable alternative locations. Other siting factors such as aspect, line-of-sight, tower height
etc should then be applied to reach the optimum solution.
10.1 Research has shown that the angular displacement of the aircraft movement with
respect to the air traffic controller is the real criterion for detecting commencement of
aircraft movement.
10.2 Based on an analysis of field trials, it has been found that an angular displacement of
11 minutes of arc is required to detect an aircraft movement without the use of binoculars
and with a 99% probability of success.
10.3 The above criterion has been used to develop the formula:
R = 195 t
, where:
R = radius of circle in metres,
t = response time in seconds.
10.4 This formula is used to determine the circular area within which a certain pre-selected
response time can be satisfied. This circular area is located relative to the position on the
runway centreline where the aircraft commences its take-off run, which is normally the
runway end. The formula can be used for all runway ends and where the areas overlap,
more than one runway end meets the pre-determined detection requirement.
10.5 The formula R = 195t
expresses R as a function of the response time t and if a
desired response is adopted, R can easily be calculated. Conversely if R is known, the
associated response time may be determined. The formula may thus be used for two
10.6 The formula is used to determine the radius of the circumference of the circular area
within which detection of aircraft movement on take-off is satisfied whilst not exceeding a
certain pre-selected response time. Figure 1 illustrates the use of this formula for this
10.7 The formula is used to determine the response times as they can be expected to apply
to take-offs at various runway ends for existing or proposed tower positions. Figure 2
illustrates the use of the formula for this purpose.

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Figure 1 Determination of circular areas satisfying pre-selected response times.

11.1 For any tower position, the response time for each runway end can be calculated using
the formula R = 195t
after having found the value of R graphically as follows:
11.2 In Figure 2 using existing or proposed tower position C and runway end B:
(a) draw line CB and a perpendicular bisector at F;
(b) draw a line perpendicular to the runway centre line at B to intersect the
perpendicular from F at D;
(c) D is the centre of the circle of radius DB whose circumference passes through C;
(d) scale DB (in metres) and substitute this value for R in the formula R = 195t2; and
(e) In this example R = 3120 m.

t = 3120 = 4 secs.
11.3 Similarly for tower position C and runway end A, the response time can be found to be
3 seconds.

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Figure 2 Determination of response times relative to runway ends and existing or
proposed tower position.

12.1 Final siting of a control tower site will require presentation of a safety assessment for
CASAs consideration, showing that the facility meets the safety objectives for the service.
(MOS Part 172 Chapter 6 refers).

Patrick Murray
Group General Manager
Air Transport Operations Group