RAF West Drayton
|Royal Air Force West Drayton|
|Active||1924 to 2008|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Garrison/HQ||West Drayton, Middlesex|
|Royal Air Force Ensign|
RAF West Drayton was a non-flying Royal Air Force station in West Drayton, within the London Borough of Hillingdon, which served as the main centre for military air traffic control in the United Kingdom. It was co-located with the civilian London Terminal Control Centre to provide a vital link between civil and military flying and airspace requirements. Following the departure of the remaining civil and military air traffic control systems by 2008, the site was closed and demolished for a new residential development.
RAF West Drayton was also the home of the Linesman System, hence the main Operations Building being known as the L1. The system used Link 1 to exchange Air Defence data between the UK and Europe. There were links to Continental Early Warning (CEW) sites at: Reitan, Maakeroy, Vaedbek, Niew Milligan, Glons and Doulons.
Aerospace System Operators (ASOps or Scopies) were responsible for the tracking and identification of every flight - military and civil, that entered or left the UK Air Defence Region (UKADR). This was a labour-intensive task in the days before automatic initiation and tracking systems, but a big improvement on the plotting table and small perspex plaques with information written on them. The School of Fighter Control continued to teach plotting and writing backwards until 1990.
The School of Fighter Control moved to RAF West Drayton from RAF Bawdsey, training junior officers to be Fighter Controllers. In addition to teaching RAF officers, foreign and commonwealth students also attended, and there was even one course of Yugoslavian MiG pilots.
Closure and redevelopment
The Royal Air Force withdrew in 1994, at which point the English Electric Lightning acting as a gate guardian was scrapped; only the nose section was retained and sent to the Malta Aviation Museum. Air traffic control services remained, although the section responsible for airspace outside London moved to Swanwick in Hampshire in 2002. The remaining operation was named the London Terminal Control Centre. RAF personnel remained on the site, as military air traffic control functions for the eastern side of England remained. In November 2007, the remaining civil air traffic control services moved to Swanwick, and in January 2008 the military operation also left the site. National Air Traffic Services vacated the site in 2008. The MT section of the Queen's Colour Squadron relocated to RAF Northolt.
Plans for 773 homes, a nursing home, shops and offices were approved by the London Borough of Hillingdon in July 2010. Inland Homes named the new development "Drayton Garden Village", aiming to create a 1930s style village. Demolition work was carried out between 2010 and 2011. Following demolition work, the additional part of the site is undergoing development under the name "Parkwest".
The Drayton Garden Village development opened officially on 21 October 2011, with a ceremony led by the Mayor of Hillingdon.
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