Following the success of our two data visualisations – Europe 24 and North Atlantic Skies – we’ve taken a lot of time to think about where to go next – it’s been a typical case of ‘difficult second album syndrome’.
Both Europe 24 and North Atlantic Skies were designed to give an overview of the daily complexity and volumes of air traffic across the UK and Europe and to do so in a way that was cinematic and exciting to watch. I think we were able to do that to great effect, but we now want to take you a little deeper.
We are therefore very excited to publish UK 24 – your guided tour to some of what makes UK aviation work.
Our airspace is busy, complex and there is a lot going on. Each year we manage around 2.2 million movements, peaking at over 8,000 a day (although there are around 7,000 on this particular day), with only 5.5 seconds delay per flight attributable to NATS. Obviously there are the flows of large aircraft from the airports into and out of the UK, but there is also a lot of activity outside controlled airspace. UK 24 is designed to help visualise the breadth and depth of UK aviation and why airspace is such an important asset.
The day starts with the bow wave of transatlantic traffic heading towards the UK on their organised and separated tracks. This is quickly joined by traffic from Europe and the first waves of departures from UK airports. Over a short period of time the traffic levels grow to show the main trunk roads of airspace as well as the hubs around London, Manchester and central Scotland.
We then move to give a unique view of the holding stacks over London and how they are a fundamental part of the Heathrow operation, providing the constant flow of traffic that makes it the world’s busiest dual runway airport with 1,350 movements a day.
Our tour then take us around the UK, including the other major airports, our two control centres in Swanwick and Prestwick, some general aviation traffic and examples of military training off the east coast of England and near to North Wales. We then dwell on the spider’s web of helicopter tracks that originate from Aberdeen, taking people and vital supplies to and from the North Sea oil and gas rigs.
We hope you enjoy this insight into the complexity and beauty of a day of UK air traffic and the value of airspace as the invisible infrastructure that makes it all work.
Incidentally, we’ve also produced a more simple static video showing an overview of the UK that you can watch here too.
Let us know what you think.
Value of aviation to the UK economy
The aviation sector and its supply chain generates over £20bn per year in economic output and directly employs circa 220,000 people. At Heathrow alone, goods worth £133 billion were shipped in and out last year, more than the combined value of goods transiting through the UK’s two largest ports, Felixstowe and Southampton.
Aviation is on average a much more productive sector than the rest of the economy; each pound spent on upgrading our aviation infrastructure is expected to generate over £5 in return. In addition aviation is a significant growth sector within key regions for UK trade, for example China, the Middle East and Turkey have ambitious plans to more than double their capacity.
Without additional capacity in the UK, we risk the rapid growth in traffic and its associated commerce being focused elsewhere.
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