It hardly matters which way the wind is blowing around Belfast International Airport – with two runways running at 90 degrees to each other they could be on easterlies, westerlies, northerlies or southerlies.

The airport – about 20 miles outside Belfast – is a hub for international flights and handles an enormous amount of freight traffic too.

But it is the crossed runways that usually prove a talking point in aviation circles. With one runway at 2,780 metres and the other 1,951 metres they can both handle a diverse range of aircraft.

NATS ATC General Manager, Martin Ruddy, said: “It is the only cross-runway operation in Northern Ireland.

“We can use either runway and we have actually operated on both runways from time to time.”

Belfast International has flights departing to and arriving from around 80 different destinations around the world – including direct flights to New York – and the NATS team in the tower on the far side of the runway from the terminal run a 24-hour operation to manage the traffic.

It is not just commercial aircraft for them to deal with either – there is the 24-hour freight operation at the airport, a wide range of business jets and helicopters.

And last June when the G8 summit was held in Northern Ireland, US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One aircraft landed and remained at the airport for the duration of the summit.

Martin added: “We have 4.3m passengers a year through the airport on around 60,000 flights.”

With a radar and tower service that provides control to 60 miles out from the airport and up to 19,000 feet the team at Belfast covers an enormous patch – and the wide range of airspace users keeps them busy.

Hear what  General Manager, Martin Ruddy had to say about operations at Northern Ireland’s busiest airport in this short video clip.


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