The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, Gloucestershire is regarded as one of the biggest events in the airshow calendar and this year NATS graduates were on hand to show off their skills.

RIAT offers far more than just an air display – and with different exhibitions across the showground, it provided the perfect opportunity to chat with visitors. This year I joined a team of six graduates, comprising of two project management graduates and four systems engineering graduates, who were given the opportunity this year to design and create the NATS stand within the special ‘Techno Zone’.

The graduate team began researching and analysing different ideas for the Techno Zone back in October 2013. We created various prototypes and tested them on other graduates as well as employees around the business.

The Techno zone was an area that promoted STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and offered young people aged 10-16 years the chance to get some hands on experience of concepts and techniques used by some of the leading companies in the aviation industry.

On the NATS stand we promoted continuous descent, an operation that smoothly glides an aircraft into landing at an airfield and helps to reduce noise, fuel burn and emissions. As part of our exhibition we asked visitors to create a paper aeroplane and try to fly it through a series of ever decreasing hoops. This was one of the most popular activities; such a simple idea but proved to be great fun for visitors to our stand.

Another popular activity was the emergency services game, this required visitors to attempt to locate a general aviation aircraft on a map by using the auto-triangulation method. This technique is used frequently by controllers within the Military Distress and Diversion cell at our Swanwick control centre in Hampshire.

Using a hidden transmitter to act as an aircraft, visitors tried to locate it by using three receiver dials. The dials projected a line across the map and a light on each dial turned green or red depending upon its proximity to the ‘aircraft’. Once the three lines crossed, visitors were asked to point to where they thought the aircraft was positioned and the true location was then lit up and revealed.

The graduate team devised a total of five activities with the aim of sparking interest in aviation for the next generation of young people who are considering their future careers.

It was really enjoyable chatting with visitors across the three day period. The stand was well received and people were impressed with the activities that were on offer.

While we were at the airshow, we also gave one lucky visitor the chance to win an exclusive “behind the scenes” visit to observe operations in the air traffic control tower at London’s Heathrow airport.

The prize draw was open to all visitors from Friday through to Sunday, who were aged 10-16 years and completed each of the challenges at our stand.

NATS Chief Executive Officer Richard Deakin visited the Techno Zone on Sunday 13 July to announce the lucky winner, who was Adam Burton-Wood from Oxfordshire.

To find out more about our Direct Entry Graduate scheme, please visit our careers website.


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Adam Burtonwood

I was lucky enough to win your competition.

I visited the control tower today and it was amazing. Everybody was really friendly and helpful.

There was so much going on and I loved seeing the A380 and the other aircraft.



Oliver Jones

Well done Adam, hope you’ve had a great time and see you at school!


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