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The Story of Rhein Control: What is behind that Name and what means Air Navigation?

The Story of Rhein Control: What is behind that Name and what means Air Navigation?

This is a historical facts report and commentary on the development of the German Air Traffic Control Centre “RHEIN CONTROL” as formerly operated by the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) and the former German Federal Administration for Air Navigation Services (BFS), assisted by the German Air Force (GAF) at Birkenfeld-Nahe and Frankfurt/Main in Germany. Air Traffic Control is a primarily English speaking profession. Also therefore this report is written in English.

“Rhein Control” is the radio call sign of an air traffic control centre for the upper airspace of Southern Germany. Since 1957 it provided “air traffic services” above 19.500 feet of altitude and as of 1967 above 24.500 feet all over Southern Germany south of a line between the cities of Aachen and Kassel. It evolved from a direction finder control station of the 501st Tactical Control Wing of USAFE, which also operated from Erbeskopf under the radio call sign of CORNBEEF as part of the direction finder network to which also various other stations such as LOGROLL, GUNPOST and RACECARD of the air defence network of NATO belonged.

Unimaginably nowadays, decisions were taken by the German administration and the stationary forces, as the victorious powers were now called, whose consequences were not fully realized. In the case of ATC service provision in the upper airspace of South Germany USAFE was the „driver“. And so it happened. A tripartite unit was formed, managed as a military facility by The 619th Tactical Control Squadron of USAFE.

If this chronicle gives the impression that Rhein Control was a pure US-military owned and operated ATC facility until August 1960, then this impression is correct. It was the cradle of a variety of air traffic control methods and operational procedures, which hitherto were either not required in civil air traffic services operations or unknown to all other ATS units under civil administration, and mainly handling only civil traffic.

This air navigation facility, its type of joint civil / military integrated operations and control procedures was unique throughout all of Western Europe until 1977, and also after it became a “co-located” civil / military centre (UAC & MATRAC) under EUROCONTROL until 1986.

The evolution of this unique European air traffic (control) services centre was and still is manifold. Founded by the 12th US Air Force and established on Erbeskopf mountain in Rhineland-Palatinate in the mid 50’ies, in 1964 taken over by BFS, the centre moved on to Frankfurt airport in the spring of 1968 and further on to the city of Karlsruhe in 1977. There, it still exists as a unit of the German Air Navigation Services Limited Liability Company “Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH”,

The air traffic services (ATS), as performed by Rhein UAC form part of the overall preflight and in-flight air navigation services (ANS) under the idefinition of ICAO, as do the aeronautical information (AIS) and telecommunication (COM) services provided by states for the safeguarding of flights. Air traffic control (ATC) as part of the ATS establishes standard separation between flights for the avoidance of collision. In controlled airspace this is a service that one cannot reject. It was Rhein UAC’s philosophy to provide such services to civil and military flights alike within one and the same portion of the airspace by joint operations under the legal framework of ICAO.

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.