Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Look Inside the Hamilton Island Airport Air Traffic Control Tower

During my recent holiday on Hamilton Island in the gorgeous Whitsundays, I was able to spend a short time up inside the Air Traffic Control Tower at the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island.

The tower is operated by Airservices Australia and is designated as a Class D Control Tower which operates from around 9am to 3pm seven-days-a-week.  The Tower was commissioned in 1984 - making it nearly 30 years old!

The single-operator console is still paper-strip based, with paper strips for arrivals and departures, as well as air transits, still hand-written by the single on-duty controller.  Digital radar screens are in use, with the on-duty controller responsible for all nearby airspace - including over the Whitsunday Airport at Shute Harbour.  The current controllers do not live on Hamilton Island, instead they transit from the mainland (Airlie Beach) each morning and afternoon to complete their shift.

Officially called the Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island Airport (YBHM/HTI) is the primary airport of the Whitsunday Islands Group, and sits on mostly reclaimed land.  The Air Traffic Control Tower sits on a nearby hill overlooking the main Runway 14/32, as well as most taxiways and the terminal building.  It has an elevation of 5 metres.  

Hamilton Island Airport is currently serviced by Qantas (through a daily QantasLink Dash-8 flight from Cairns), as well as Jetstar Airways Airbus A320s and Virgin Australia Boeing B737s (both airlines operating services from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne).  During my time in the tower, I was fortunate to capture some lovely images of Virgin B737-800 VH-VOQ as it popped into Hamilton Island from Melbourne.

Some additional seasonal flights to Hamo have been operated by Qantas over the years with the larger Boeing B767-300 touching down - as shown below in late 2012.

Hamilton Island also plays host to a wide variety of corporate bizjet and turbo-prop aircraft.

By far the most movements at Hamo however, are reserved for the local charter aircraft and helicopter operators - Whitsunday Air Services and Hamilton Island Air - as well as GSL Aviation operating transfers from the Whitsunday Airport on the mainland.

It was truly a magic day with some absolutely great views!  I'd like to thank the staff at AirServices Australia - and in particular the Hamilton Island Airport controllers - for allowing me the opportunity to pay the Control Tower a visit!

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