Report - - Wellington Air Traffic Control Tower, Wellington NZ (June 2021) | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Wellington Air Traffic Control Tower, Wellington NZ (June 2021)


28DL Member
28DL Member
First time post from New Zealand - hope you enjoy :)

Affectionately known as both 'Arnold' and 'The Grand Old Lady of Wellington', the former Airways Wellington Air Traffic Control Tower at 34-36 Tirangi Road, Rongotai is the second iteration (of three) of what was originally the Rongotai Airport Control Tower.

In 1929, Rongotai Aerodrome (later Rongotai Airport) opened. It is unclear whether or not the Rongotai Airport Control Tower was built at the outset, but this photo from 1947 – the year that the airport closed – shows the original tower in situ:


Control tower, including aircraft, at Rongotai Airport, Wellington. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-06957-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/30652694

As mentioned, Rongotai Airport closed in 1947 as the grass runway became no longer fit-for-purpose. In the years to follow, plans took shape to build a new airport, which would become known as Wellington Airport (later Wellington International Airport). This, of course, prompted the need for a new control tower, with building work commencing in 1957 and the new 14.2m high tower opening in 1959 to coincide with the opening of the airport.


Model for the Control Tower at Rongotai Aerodrome, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/4130-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23259329


Unidentified men working on the construction site of the control tower at Rongotai Airport, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/3117-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23256897


Wellington City Council Archives, 00158-860-c (sheet 1793). c. Control Tower.

It’s safe to say that not much changed for Arnold over the next 60 years. 1996 saw the telephone switch room converted into office space, and there was some work carried out in more recent years between 2008 and 2010 (a vehicle ramp was created to provide additional parking to the rear of the site, drainage alterations were undertaken, and most significantly, an auxiliary power supply annexe was added). A house at the rear of the site, built in 1917, was also relocated in 2003 – a fairly common practice in New Zealand due to the wooden construction of many homes.

In 2012, it was decided that a new Air Traffic Control Tower was needed due to a number of failings with the existing tower. These included ongoing maintenance issues, substandard acoustics, space and technological limitations, poor accessibility, safety and security concerns, asbestos contamination, the need for seismic strengthening, and non-compliance with New Zealand Building Code standards. In addition, the tower's inability to comply with the airport’s Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS) requirement meant that a new structure could not be built at the same location, and so in 2018, a new tower was opened nearby at 1-2 George Bolt Street and the old tower was decommissioned.

Although the old tower was placed on public sale, Wellington International Airport were ultimately obliged to purchase it due to the OLS non-compliance and in line with their own Noise Management Plan. Following their acquisition of Arnold in late 2020, he stood tall until March 2021 when demolition finally commenced and he was eventually removed from existence in June 2021. RIP bro.

What’s not to love about a wooden air traffic control tower plonked where a house should be in the middle of a residential street? I just had to go and pay my respects...


Spot the difference (see previous image).


Air mail. The tower is believed to be the only one in the world with a residential address and its own postbox.


Security porch. Before entering, another door on the right leads into the auxiliary power supply room (added in 2009/10):

Presumably this would have housed a generator and/or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system. Once through the main door and into the entrance lobby, an adjacent room on the right (originally a cleaner’s cupboard) would have housed UPS batteries:

And the main lobby itself – not much to see other than this sign:
IMG_20210619_152801 (redacted).jpg

Then, straight ahead from the lobby is the main equipment room:

Visit 1/visit 2

Then up to the first floor, which is solely offices and a little loo:

Now vs. then (Wellington International Airport Control Tower Detailed Engineering Evaluation – Quantitative Seismic Assessment Report, 5-C2401.00. Opus International Consultants Ltd (October 2012)).


The old telephone switch room – converted to offices in the mid-90s.

Heading up to floor two:

Operations Room (since partitioned):


IMG_0266 (redacted).JPG

Staff room with kitchenette:

The master suite:

Now onto the fun bit...:

A long staircase leads up to the third floor, which is actually just a landing providing access to the air conditioning plant room (in reality, a crawlspace beneath the control cab) on the left and, out through a door on the right, onto the external observation deck which is designed for clearer manual monitoring of the skies in the event of a complete power and/or communications failure.



Air con plant room


Door to observation deck




Views over the runway. Note the new control tower (visible with its cab on the horizon) in the first shot.

What we've all been waiting for; up in the cab on floor 4…

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28DL Member
28DL Member


Control panels:

IMG_0372 (redacted).JPG


Looking back down to floors 2 & 3:

Demolition (for those building nerds, the tower consists of a steel-framed control cab sat atop a timber-framed base. The original timber walls are lined with plasterboard and the building is clad with a mix of steel corrugated cladding and asbestos sheeting. The observation deck has a membrane.):




Ya served us well, Arnold.

Thanks for reading!
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Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Great 1st report. Right format, spot on. Great narration too. Good snaps. Like the control room and the views. Well done & welcome :cool:


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Absolutely awesome!

And I want that poster... :D