Our Prestwick Control Centre recently had the honour of hosting the 2014 Ayr Air Show Conference with the focus on ‘Regeneration’.

I had the pleasure of speaking on the premise that ‘there is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know’ and the Internet was my first port of call to do my homework.

Whilst trying to cut through the mound of information that resulted from a search on the topic of regeneration, there were two surprising themes that after a bit of reading, and admittedly some lateral thinking, gave me the insight on regeneration that I wanted – Salamanders and Doctor Who (or for the purists, The Doctor).

For the latter, it seemed there were two main reasons to regenerate – old age or he was forced into sacrificing himself in order to save another. However, he did this knowing he would come back, still called the Doctor, but physically different and stronger – and I did note now in his third Scottish regeneration!

Salamanders on the other hand have an amazing real ability to regenerate to save themselves. If captured, they will surrender a limb knowing that within weeks a new one will grow back. It was the salamander regeneration cycle that grabbed my attention. It follows a complex process whereby the nerves retract from the wound, a protective skin is formed and underneath the cells shuffle and reorganise themselves into what is needed to grow the bones, veins etc. and then together they grow a new limb – incredible!

So what did I learn from these two admittedly rather abstract regeneration examples?

Firstly that regeneration is a complex process to restore something that has been lost or protect something that could be lost to you or a strategically important other.

Secondly, that during regeneration it is no good coming back the same as before, you need to come back more resilient.

Lastly, you need to step back from the problem, break it down into its constituent parts, enable each of these parts to create the best they can and then bring them intelligently together, in partnership, to form the new resilient way forward.

During the economic recession, the number of daily flights we control was significantly reduced but we are now hopeful that the roots of recovery are upon us.

So applying the above, we should ensure that we regenerate the capability to deal with growing traffic levels.

We must develop flexible and resilient service capabilities that meet not only today’s requirements but those predicted for the future.

Lastly, all of the threads of these new developments need to be brought together in the context of the global air traffic network ‘big picture’ within strong partnerships.

Here at the Prestwick Centre I am pleased to write that we are very much on track for regeneration, ensuring that our 70+ year relationship with Ayrshire continues. We are investing in our two main constituent parts – North Atlantic and UK air traffic control (ATC) – and developing our technology, people and partnerships to meet future needs.

In our North Atlantic business, we are introducing satellite technology through a strong partnership with our Canadian neighbours, which will deliver the next generation of ATC capability and enable significantly better fuel and environmental benefits for our customers.

We are also introducing next generation ATC systems in our UK business within a strong European partnership. This will ultimately enable our customers to continue to fly safely but within a much more dynamic and flexible environment that better meets the performance needs of new aircraft and is more adaptable to elements such as the weather – a ‘dynamic free route environment’.

Regeneration should not be a one off process, after all The Doctor has done it more than eleven times and Salamanders are capable of regenerating multiple limbs. We recognise this within NATS and our strategies look as far into the future as possible so that we implement a capability for this future today.


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