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Professional Career & Social Welfare at Birkenfeld’s Rhein Control

Professional Career & Social Welfare at Birkenfeld’s Rhein Control

Civilian ATS personnel arriving at Birkenfeld immediately felt being illegally assigned there outside german legislation as far as the performance of ATC service under foreign military regulations and to mainly military flights, developed. This situation, however, remained unclarified for all civil staff until at least 1964, when Rhein Control became an independent solely german civil operated air navigation unit, assisted by the GAF.

The integration into the teams of the responsible USAF squadrons (first the 619th TCS, then the 7424th SUPPRON) and the assignment of equivalent US military officers' rank plus military logistic support contributed to this "feeling". One was suddenly part of US military life, had to pay all expenses in US dollars and was permitted to use all military installations and facilities. To purchase and pay with US dollars required special permission from a state bank. Duty orders came from USAF supervisors. This whole arrangement became legally based on the USA & FRG state agreement only in 1959, which ceased as late as April 1968.

Whereas US military, German Air Force and BFS civil controllers enjoyed equal status under USAF facility command from June 1957 to September 1960 with BFS controllers being given equivalent US military officer status. This situation changed upruptly in September 1960, when BFS assumed responsibility for ATS operations, leaving the control of all military flights into the hands of the civil controllers.

An administrative official of BFS took care of adherence to proper german administrative governmental procedures, which were often violated, when it came to postal secrecy, correct operational incident investigation and the suppression of reports, complaints, suggestions and correspondence by Rhein Control's staff and BFS at Frankfurt. One normally was better off in dealing with USAF than with BFS superiors. This even lead to falsification of working position logs, the erasure of magnetic voice tape recordings and irresponsible operational work orders by “the office”. Private mail was opened with the assistance of the german PTT and telephones were tapped. Personal data security was an unknown term.

Active membership in the controllers professional association GATCA, union activity and chairmanship of the unit's works council apparently were too much for BFS. When the unit's staff decided to form its own works council in 1961, this move was almost considered as an attack by BFS and the required cooperation of the unit's administration with the works council proved less than minimal, turning into a formality only. Controllers became frustrated in significant numbers and the ones that had a chance to take up other ATC assignments with ICAO, BFS, EUROCONTROL or outside Europe did leave as soon as they could. The rest held through until the move of the centre to Frankfurt airport in April 1968.

However, a fact withheld from controllers was that the german government was not protecting them from consequences of operational incidents and accidents, because they were serving a military organization of a foreign nation.

Read More:
German Air Traffic Control During The Cold War
The Story of Rhein Control
Vol 3, The Operation of ATC in South Germany's Upper Airspace 1957-1977


Die umfassende Dokumentation über den Luftverkehrsdienst Flugsicherung. Eine Buchreihe in mehreren Bänden, die von Frank W. Fischer im Verlag der International Advisory Group Air Navigation Services (ANSA) herausgegeben wurde.