Air Traffic Control

Aviation Media and News since 2008


Adelaide Tower

Information provided by Airservices AustraliaAdelaide Tower stands 21 metres high and was built in 1981.

Airservices Australia has implemented a National Towers Program which in its first stage will see the replacement of tower facilities at Adelaide, Rockhampton and Melbourne.

Airservices operates 26 control towers across Australia, many of which were constructed between1941 and 1995. A number of these have now exceeded their design life, contain obsolete equipment no longer supported by suppliers and require modernisation to bring them in line with current industry standards. Related projects under the National Towers Program involve the refurbishment of a number of other ageing tower facilities and the incorporation of new tower technology into the refurbished and renewed buildings.

The project aims to introduce a blueprint for a nation-wide program centred on a standardised approach to tower construction and fit out. This includes reducing the range of tower building configurations by using a modular approach to building design. The new towers will be designed with a minimum building lifespan of 20 years. The project will also deliver tower Infrastructure.

Tower controllers operate Surface Movement control on 121.7, Airways Clearance delivery/Co-ordinator (ADC) on 126.1 and Tower on 120.5.



Adelaide Control Tower


21 Metres High

Built 1981

Adelaide Terminal Control UnitTCU operators are responsible for controlling air space in the vacinity of the airfield from a short time after the aircrat leaves the ground until 36 nautical miles from the field.

TCU operators are also responsible for inbound traffic untill 5-10 nautical miles from the airfield where aircraft are handed over to Adelaide Tower.

Below is an overview and facts about the Adelaide TCU.

Facts and Figures provided by Airservices Australia.

TCUs – Terminal Control Unit Stations



Adelaide Terminal Control Unit: Facts and Figures

The Adelaide TCU operates 24/7 and is staffed by an experienced team of air traffic controllers.


  • Adelaide Terminal Control Unit (TCU) provides Air Traffic Services in a cylinder of airspace 24000 feet high (over 7km) and 36 nautical miles (NM) (about 67 km) in radius, extending to a 50 NM (about 93 km) radius in a wedge to the north for RAAF traffic.


Geographically, the airspace extends to Stansbury in the west, Victor Harbor in the south, Murray Bridge in the east, and Balaklava / Riverton / Eudunda in the north.

Adelaide tower controllers are responsible for aircraft on the surface of the aerodrome.Departing pilots will be in contact with the TCU controllers almost immediately after takeoff and for the first 10 to 15 minutes of their flight, and arriving pilots from about 15 minutes before landing until about 5 to 10 NM before landing.


  • Airspace is split into three sub-sectors, each with its own frequency, and each controlled by one person, the


See downloadable map (PDF) (JPG)


TCU Station



Control Areas

ApproachWest (AAW) on 124.2 MHz controls traffic to the west of the extended runway 05/23 centreline.

Approach East (AAE) on 118.2 MHz controls traffic to the east of the extended runway 05/23 centreline. “East” also has frequency 130.45 MHz which is used for light aircraft traffic in class G (uncontrolled) low level airspace.

Approach North (AAN) on 128.6 MHz controls traffic in the wedge of airspace to the north, which tapers to about a 4 mile radius to the south of Edinburgh. “North” also has a UHF 306.3 MHz which is used for some military operations.

“North” is often combined with “West” when there is no military traffic. During quiet times of civilian traffic, “East” may also be combined so that all services are provided from one console.


Beyond and AboveBeyond and above the Adelaide TCU airspace, services are provided from Melbourne Centre, Tailem Bend (TBD) sector to the east on 125.3MHz, Augusta (AUG) sector to the west and north on 127.05MHz, and Kingscote (KSC) sector to the south west on 123.05MHz.


  • There are four control positions (consoles) in the Adelaide TCU, one for each executive plus a ‘planner’ controller.


The planner assists the executives by issuing airways clearances to aircraft departing from Parafield and Edinburgh, monitoring the overall workload of the unit and opening and closing consoles as required.

The planner may pass inter-unit coordination on behalf of an executive if so requested. The planner also performs the ‘flow’ function, calculating the landing sequence into Adelaide and issuing instructions to aircraft via the outer sectors in Melbourne Centre for aircraft to slow down or speed up in order to achieve an orderly stream of arriving traffic.


  • Adelaide Airport sees 300 movements per day, which is a combination of landings and take offs.
Adelaide Terminal Control UnitAirspace and Facilities


Download ATCU map (PDF) (JPG)


Non-Regular Traffic

Apart from regular transport traffic, there are medical and police helicopter movements to deal with, media helicopters, photographic and survey operations in helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, RFDS operations, corporate jets, joy flights, parachuting operations, and in the warmer months, shark patrol and bushfire water bomber operations.

In addition, Adelaide Approach also provides services to numerous training and general aviation aircraft travelling to and from Parafield Airport, and to military aircraft operating from Edinburgh, many of which fly over or conduct operations at Adelaide Airport in the course of their operations.

Special events such as air shows or aviation activity associated with events like the Clipsal 500 motor race and Tour Down Under add to the traffic mix.

An interesting mix prevails of fast and slow, rotary and fixed wing, large and small aircraft.


Related information: How Air Traffic Control Works (view)


Credits5DME would like to thank all the staff from Airservices Australia who contributed to the information above.

Photos are courtesy of Rod Brown.

ATCU Map Courtesy of David Smith.

Additional Airservices photos are available in our Photo Gallery.