• December 4, 2023

Where Can You Find Spain’s Tallest Air Traffic Control Towers?


Today we will look at the tallest air traffic control (ATC) towers in Spain. However, before we get into that, what are air traffic control towers, and how did they come to be?

Air traffic control towers are tall structures built at airports so that controllers can observe aircraft movement on the ground and also incoming and outgoing flights. Various requirements and site considerations determine an air traffic control tower’s height and placement to ensure safety. In some instances, air traffic control towers may be taller than other buildings in the city or town the airport serves.

Because 50% of airports’ air traffic control towers do not have occupiable space, they are listed as communication or observation towers. Initially, airlines handled the movement of their aircraft, and it was only when more people started to fly that the need for observation towers came about.


2 The busiest airports in Spain


When we look at 2019 pre-Covid-19 traffic numbers for Spanish airports, we can see that Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) is number one, handling more than 61 million passengers. Serving the Spanish capital and surrounding area by geographical size, MAD is the second-largest airport in Europe after Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).


Coming in at number two is Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN). Located on the Mediterranean coast south of the French border, Barcelona airport is the second-busiest airport in Spain. Serving the region of Catalonia in 2019, BCN handled more than 52 million passengers.


Number three on our list of the busiest airports in Spain may be a surprise as it is in The Balearic Islands. Serving the Mediterranean holiday island of Mallorca, Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) handled more than 29 million passengers in 2019.


Located on Spain’s sunny Costa del Sol, Málaga Airport (AGP) is the gateway to Marbella and numerous other vacation resorts on Spain’s southern coastline. In 2019 AGP handled more than 19 million passengers.


Serving the beautiful Costa Blanca and the vacation destination of Benidorm, Alicante–Elche Miguel Hernández Airport (ALC) is the fifth-busiest airport in Spain. In 2019 ALC handled more than 15 million passengers.

1 Spanish airports with the tallest air traffic control (ATC) towers

While you would then think that the tallest ATC towers would be at Spain’s busiest airports, except for the first two, you would be wrong.


Unsurprisingly, Spain’s tallest air traffic control tower can be found at the country’s busiest airport, Madrid Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD). After the base structure for the tower was in place, it took just nine months to build the control tower. Covering an area of 73,194 square feet and 233 feet tall, the air traffic control tower at MAD is the tallest in Spain.


Just like our list of the busiest airports in Spain, the second-tallest air traffic control tower can be found at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) in Catalonia. The air traffic control tower at BCN was built in 1965.

BCN ATC tower

Consisting of the main base with parking for 83 cars, the upper portion of the tower contains five floors. The tower covers a surfacer area of 129,166 square feet and is 203 feet tall.


In western Spain on the Bay of Cadiz, Rota Naval Air Station (ROZ) is a joint US-Spanish air base supporting NATO operations in Southern Europe and Africa. During the Gulf War, the base was a refueling stop for American military aircraft returning to the United States from the Middle East.

Rota Naval Air Station

At 12,106 feet long, Rota has the fourth-longest runway in Spain after Madrid, Ciudad Real, and Zaragoza. The Naval Station’s new air traffic control tower opened in the summer of 2016. It is the third-tallest air traffic control tower in Spain and is 184 feet tall.


Situated on Andalucia’s southern Mediterranean coast near Malaga, Costa del Sol Malaga Airport (AGP) built a new modern air traffic control tower in 2002.

Malaga Airport ATC tower

The ATC tower at Malaga Airport is the fourth tallest in Spain at 179 feet.

Santiago de Compostela

Located in northwest Spain in the province of Galicia, Camino de Santiago is the alleged burial site of the apostle St. James. It is the final stage of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

Santiago de Compostela ATC tower

Santiago-Rosalía de Castro Airport (SCQ) opened in 1937 and was remodeled with a new terminal in 2011. The air traffic control tower at SCQ is the fifth largest in Spain at 171 feet tall.


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