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Close up of Air Traffic Control tower cab
⇩ Air Traffic Control Tower at CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia.
This nine-storey air traffic control tower is located in Greenwood, Nova Scotia at 14 Wing. The tower includes air, ground, and radar control, as well as administrative and training functions.
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Detail drawing of air traffic control tower cab.
⇩ Detail drawing of air traffic control tower cab.
The most important part of an air traffic and ground control tower is to provide visibility to both air and ground movements. The windows are canted by 60 degrees and arranged to provide as close to a 360 degree view of the airfield as possible.
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Rendering of an air traffic control tower with a C-130 in the background
⇩ Air Traffic Control Tower Rendering.
An early rendering of 14 Wing's Air Traffic Control Tower created with Architectural Desktop and a little Photoshop. Early modelling was done during pre-design to confirm the sightlines to the runway transition points over existing buildings.
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Schematic hangar for fighter squadron.
⇩ Schematic hangar for fighter squadron.
Shown are some simple concept sketches of a tactical fighter squadron based typical aircraft dimensions, early program requirements for building services, and span-depth dimensions for the building construction.
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sketch of hangar door structural system.
⇩ Sketch of hangar door structural system.
Hangar doors are an important operational component of the hangar. This is a sectional sketch exploring the option of replacing horizontal rolling doors with vertical lift fabric doors.
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Tilt up hangar door.
⇩ Tilt up hangar door.
A tilt-up hangar door. The thickness of the door depends on wind loads. Small hangars like these are often located in the face of the prevailing winds in line with the primary runway, so they are heavy. The hoisting system is nearly identical to theatrical rigging with loftblocks and a counterweight arbour.
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potential jet blast/wash with aircraft movement.
⇩ Jet blast illustration.
Jet blast or jet wash from a taxiing aircraft can cause damage to surrounding buildings or aircraft. The risk of jet blast damage is greatest when initiating movement from a standing position or initating turns as well as turns greater than 90 degrees.
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Drawing of aerodrome showing different activity zones.
⇩ Aerodrome zoning.
Understanding how the areas and activities of an aerodrome relate to each other allow for smart decisions for airside and groundside future planning.
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Animated schematic image of a fighter plane engine removal
⇩ Schematic rendering of a fighter jet engine removal.
There are standards for fixed obstructions based on aircraft wingspan, fuselage length and tail height. However, it's easy to miss aspects of aircraft maintenance during the planning stages. This process included the Aircraft Maintenance Chief and was effective in communicating space requirements.
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handsome man preparing to fly a cessna
⇩ I'm not a pilot, but I play one on TV.
I'm a bit of a flight simulator geek, so my wife gave me a coupon for a flight lesson for my 40th birthday. Because I'm a flight sim geek, I was already aware of the instruments and some flight theory. So, the pilot instructor – with guidance, allowed me to take-off and land the plane. My geeky hobby has been an asset when I've worked with RCAF squadrons for their aerodrome & aviation architectural requirements!

Aerodrome Architecture

GUMP Check: Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture & Propeller.

Aviation architecture is a fascinating world with precise requirements. It's built on multiple scales of aircraft and human movement. It is not unlike watching a carefully choreographed ballet. JC ROBBINS ARCHITECTURE wants to be your trusted resource for your aviation architecture requirements.

Air Traffic Control Towers

The air traffic control tower pictured above is located in Greenwood, Nova Scotia at 14 Wing. The tower includes air, ground, and radar control, as well as administrative and training functions. It's a nine storey tower with 7 floors of radar control, administration, training & service space, plus 2 floors dedicated to air and ground operations. The amazing thing about an air traffic control tower, is that its site isn't on the ground like a typical building, but at an elevation that provides visibility to both ground and air movements, but especially transition points on the runway.

The form of an ATCT comes from a combination of the control cab's height, and available space on the ground. This tower at 14 Wing includes occupied program space in the tower. The minimum spaced distance required for exits (9m) by the Building Code dictated the dimensions for the tower. Other towers may decide to put their adminstration within a larger footprint on the ground floor and opt for a structural tower with only stairs and an elevator in the core.

The form of the control cab comes from the operators request to keep the columns on the outside to reduce sightline obstructions. I collaborated with the structural engineer to make the roof as efficient as possible by using an inverted triangular truss. The requirement for exterior columns created an unusual condition that negated the efficiency of the triangle. Considering the exterior columns are larger due to their insulation requirements and lack of efficiency, their effect of reducing sightline obstructions is questionable. If I ever get a chance to design one again, I will work with the operators to move the columns to the interior where they'll be small and more efficient.


Hangars are large span open spaces with the primary purpose of storing aircraft. The great challenge of hangars is to find the balance between minimum storage requirements and a future proofing of the required program. Flightline access is an incredibly limited resource. Maintenance and training requirements need to be carefully balanced with available real estate and operational requirements. Does that activity need to happen on the flightline, or can it be moved elsewhere in the aerodrome campus?

Hangar and door sizes are readily determined through aircraft manufacturers' facility design guides for minimum wingtip, tail and fuselage clearances to obstructions. Preliminary designs for spans and openings are simple span/depth calculations. The larger the span, the deeper the beams & trusses. Hangar doors come in a variety of configurations including: horizontal rolling, tip-up, clamshell, and vertical lift fabric. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages. The best door for your hangar will depend on a combination of operational requirements and available heights and apron space.

Aerodrome Planning

Long view aerodrome planning is important. An aerodrome campus, whether civilian or military (or combined), all share similar requirements of primary runways, taxiways, apron parking, hangars, refueling, administration & training. Proximities to each other will greatly affect the efficiencies of the operational environment. Considering the cost of aviation facilities, it is wise to engage in an extremely controlled planning regimen to ensure all your vertical infrastructure supports the long term operations of your aerodrome.

Contact JC ROBBINS ARCHITECTURE office@jcrobbinsarchitecture.com for more information about aviation architecture and aerodrome planning.