NATS employees working at airports face a number of challenges in ensuring they provide a safe and efficient service to their customers.

But in few places will they find the sort of daily complexities that are faced at Cardiff Airport.

With ambitious plans for growth for the commercial business at the airport, which sits on the Severn Estuary at Barry, a few miles outside the capital of Wales, controllers in Cardiff also have a considerable amount of other commercial and military aircraft to deal with.

RAF St Athan with its military jets is just a few miles away, there are a number of military training areas throughout Wales and there is a significant section of enroute airspace to manage across the south west of the UK. There is also a busy general aviation community throughout the south west and Wales.

In the ATC operation controllers are handling 129,000 aircraft movements per year with significant levels of complexity across a wide area of the UK.

David Healey, NATS ATC General Manager at Cardiff, said: “This is one of the few units where controllers can one minute be handling a B747 coming in to land at the British Airways maintenance unit at Cardiff, and the next be providing a service for a glider.

“We co-ordinate and plan so that the military jets, civil airliners and general aviation community can all use the airspace safely and without disruption.”

Cardiff Airport currently has more than a million passengers a year, serving scheduled airlines and charter tour operators.  The airport has more than 50 direct destinations and more than 800 one-stop destinations around the world.

Since 2003, Cardiff has twice been voted one of the Top 10 Best UK Airports in the Telegraph Travel Awards.

The airport’s runway is 2,394m long and 46m wide and, on average, up to 25 aircraft can take off and land every hour.

David said: “We are a small, hard-working unit at Cardiff. We have a busy and complex operation managing many types of airspace.

“It is a welcoming and friendly place to work where we have a great team of people doing a fantastic job.”

Meet David

Hear David discuss the challenges and opportunities that managing the air traffic service at Cardiff Tower brings in our video below:


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Rick Jones

Lovely airport with great staff – always enjoy going there.



Robert Smith

Not much of a tower tour when there are no pictures from inside the tower??!

Hi Robert,
That’s a good point. We called it ‘tours’ from a point of view of touring around our different towers and hearing from the General Managers about the operations there. BUT we should show more of the inside – we’ll make an effort to take more photos inside on future visits to towers.



Mark Watkinson

I am an instructor at Dunkeswell and was doing some night training at Cardiff earlier this week 4/5 Nov, and wanted to say what an excellent service we got from both radar and tower. It was very professional and accommodating and fitted us in well with commercial traffic. Please pass on my thanks to the team.



wouter vermeersch

The tower does not look so tall compared with the surrounding buildings or other ATC towers. Do you have any idea how heigh the controllers eyesight is up there?



Phoenix MacKenzie

Bould you please tell me who to contact about the damn helicopters buzzing our village (Pontrhydyfen, , Nr Port Talbot) every bloody day?



Stuart Wardman

Phoenix you should be glad you dont live in Lincolnshire we get R.A.F Fighters all day long a few helicopters would be a delight


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