On 14 January I was privileged to have the opportunity to address a distinguished audience at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Their New Year Reception has long been known as a highlight in the calendar, where eminent speakers from the UK offer insight of their markets and challenges -so I was keen to put on a bit of a show for them.

For me it was an occasion to showcase NATS and its vital role in the UK economy, offering a glimpse of the real air traffic control (ATC) operation today, and hypothesise on what might be seen in the future, as technologies allow us to challenge how we have always done things.

I shared my interest of the notion of a time, perhaps not too far in the future when aircraft are capable of taking passengers to hypersonic speeds, drastically reducing travel times. Equally the notion of how a group of aircraft could fly in formation to reduce drag and fuel burn offers a fantastic topic ripe for discussion. Also I suggested how technology might allow airlines to prioritise aircraft differently, giving preference to those carrying passengers needing to connect to another flight, for example.


Of course addressing the system issue that inconvenienced many passengers on 12 December last year needed to be spoken to, and I hope I was able to share some facts and insight as to the cause and our service resilience plans.

In addition I was keen to share my own passion for aviation, and I went so far as to share some early photographs from my childhood, and talked about my first week in the job that neatly coincided with an unplanned conversation with Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight as to how the notorious ash cloud in 2010 affected UK airspace.

Supporting the narrative I employed a range of audio video content intended to provide the audience with an immersive and rich experience. RT (radio telecommunications) from our controllers piped through the audio system, welcoming guests as they entered the room, while our airspace data visualisations projected onto not only a large screen but also the ceiling!

These events are valuable as they provide an opportunity to share industry perspectives with a highly eminent group of people!! As those within air traffic know so well, gaining an understanding of what we do, our complex and nuanced industry provides a way to achieve continued support and engagement while having interesting conversations about a topic so close to my heart!


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