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RAF West Drayton
Station Crest
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Service history
Active 1924 to 2008[1]
Motto "Protect"
Colors Ensign of the Royal Air Force

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.



File:RAF West Drayton buildings.jpg

The station was used to house 700 athletes competing at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, together with RAF Uxbridge and Richmond.[2]

The station became a unit of No. 11 Group RAF in January 1965.[3]

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. The station also became responsible for collecting and analysing many reports of UFOs after information was received by the Ministry of Defence.[4]

Closure and redevelopmentEdit

Bus passes RAF West Drayton - - 76380

A London bus passes the RAF West Drayton complex in 2005

The Royal Air Force withdrew in 1994, at which point the English Electric Lightning acting as a gate guardian was scrapped;[5] only the nose section was retained and sent to the Malta Aviation Museum.[6] 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,[7] and in January 2008 the military operation also left the site. National Air Traffic Services vacated the site in 2008.[8] 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.[9] Inland Homes named the new development "Drayton Garden Village", aiming to create a 1930s style village.[10] Demolition work was carried out between 2010 and 2011.[11] Following demolition work, the additional part of the site is undergoing development under the name "Parkwest".[12]

The Drayton Garden Village development opened officially on 21 October 2011, with a ceremony led by the Mayor of Hillingdon.[13]


  1. "RAF West Drayton". Air of Authority. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  2. "History". Winning Endeavours. 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  3. "Chapter 8 - RAF West Drayton". Association of Royal Air Force Fighter Control Officers. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  4. Grimston, Jack (22 March 2009). "Is that a flying saucer? No, it’s a stealth bomber". Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  5. Nick Weight. "English Electric Lightning F2". Air-Britain. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  6. "English Electric Lightning F.2". Malta Aviation Museum. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  7. Rob Curl (26 September 2008). "Why Swanwick hit the headlines". Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  8. "RAF, West Drayton, Hillingdon, Porters Way, West Drayton". CB Richard Ellis. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  9. "Go-ahead for NATS site development". 7 July 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  10. Coombs, Dan (5 July 2010). "Green light for 773 homes at NATS site in Porters Way". Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  11. Coombs, Dan (1 April 2011). "Porters Way residents still suffering dust problems from NATS site". Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  12. "History". St George plc. 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  13. Coombes, Jenny (21 October 2011). "Cheers as Drayton Garden Village housing site opened". Retrieved 17 February 2012. 

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°30′18″N 0°27′41″W / 51.5049°N 0.4615°W / 51.5049; -0.4615

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