A frequent question that arises when planning a new air traffic control tower is where to build it and what the main requirements are for such a critical airport building.
Most states have direct control over these issues, as air traffic control providers are quite often state-managed companies. Even if this is the case, there are some states that do not provide or publish any set of requirements, neither specific nor generic.
It comes down to understanding what both the client and the end user expect and demand in order to translate this into a set of technical requirements that can drive the planning and design process.
In these cases, previous experience is paramount when assisting the client to make decisions about what type of infrastructure to plan for. In the absence of clear guidance, there are several authorities that publish some of their planning and design criteria documents. With the proper expertise, these can prove to be valuable resources when performing an ATC Tower planning exercise. But where can one find them?
- The FAA, in USA, Order 6480.4A is a good, if not the best, place to start. It provides a basic background on what criteria should drive the tower siting process. It thoroughly explains the visibility aspect and provides a web-based software tool to check if the minimum visibility criteria are met, both in terms of angle of incidence, and probability of detection and recognition of objects: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/orders_notices/index.cfm/go/document.information/documentID/15735
- The DGAC in France has published a document that also delves into the matter of ATC Tower siting, as well as functional requirements and building design criteria. However, it is less onerous in terms of the minimum visibility requirements than the FAA document: http://www.stac.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/publications/gnt-amena.php
- Aena in Spain usually publishes a requirements document for each ATC tower they want to have designed. It is structured much in the same way as the DGAC document, but is more demanding when it comes to visibility criteria. It also provides requirements for elements such as the power supply, cab configuration, and fire detection and suppression systems.
Aside from the above-mentioned examples, depending on the situation, some of the following documents might also be helpful:
- US Air Force ATCT/RAPCON Design Guide: https://www.wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFDG/ARCHIVES/atct_racf.pdf
- FAA Airport traffic control tower and terminal radar approach control facility design guidelines (cancelled but still insightful): http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Order/6480.7D.pdf
- DOD Airfield and heliport planning and design document. Section 17 contains siting criteria: http://www.wbdg.org/ccb/DOD/UFC/ufc_3_260_01.pdf
In the end, unless there are specific applicable standards where the ATC tower is being planned for or designed, it comes down to understanding what both the client and the end user expect and demand in order to translate this into a set of technical requirements that can drive the planning and design process.