WWII 8th Air Force Control Tower
Published October 26, 2015
Note: This reproduction of the 1942 standard control tower, representative of 8th Air Force control towers used in Great Britain during World War II, is located on the museum grounds in the Air Park. The building is open from noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday from January through March (closed Monday through Thursday) and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily April through December.
A weather detachment, manned by two forecasters and two weather observers, usually occupied a ground floor room. The flight controllers, who occupied the second story room fronting the balcony, provided pilots with weather information and flight clearances, and directed takeoffs and landings. The flat roof often supported a weather observation post and weather recording instruments, such as a wind vane and anemometer.
The Main Control Room
The control room was the focal point of air operations where group VIPs convened for mission takeoffs and landings. All non-mission flights were cleared from this building, and from here instant communication could be made to the British Royal Observer Corps lookout stations, British Anti-Aircraft and Searchlight units, Air/Sea Rescue units, and Fighter Command Air Defense headquarters. Base ground personnel ringed the building at times of mission returns, where they could receive the latest news concerning the aircraft they maintained and armed.
Weather Instrument Shelter
The 8th Air Force operated over 100 airfields in England during WWII, and each had a weather instrument shelter near its control tower. These shelters housed maximum and minimum thermometers, a wet bulb thermometer (to measure humidity), a thermograph (which made a continuous chart of the temperature for each 24 hours), and a hydrograph (which made a continuous chart of the humidity for each 24 hours). A weather observer read and recorded the temperatures and humidity every hour, night and day.
The instrument shelter was required by international meteorological standards to be located over a grass surface away from any buildings to ensure no reflected heat reached the shelter. The shelters were also required to face north to protect the instruments from the heat of the sun when the door was opened.
The Wind Vane
All U.S. weather stations in England during WWII had a wind vane mounted on the roof of the control tower. Connected electrically to wind panels in the flight control room and the weather station (inside the tower), it constantly displayed the direction from which the wind was blowing. It also was sometimes connected to a recorder in the weather station, which produced a chart of the wind directions for the entire 24 hours. Wind speed was critical for aircraft landings and takeoffs.
The actual 8th Air Force Control Tower exhibit was funded by the 8th Air Force Memorial Foundation.
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