Known as the world’s busiest civilian heliport, Aberdeen Airport is a dynamic place with helicopters continually taking off and landing, giving it a real buzz. This being said, helicopters only account for 39% of the airport’s traffic with the remaining 61% being made up from fixed wing aircraft.
The variety and quantity of traffic provides a unique challenge to the NATS’ team as they need to integrate the different types of aircraft in a seamless fashion to maximise capacity.
At the time of writing, Aberdeen is Britain’s fifth busiest airport in terms of total movements with 3.76 million fixed wing passengers and another 0.5 million helicopter passengers using the airport last year. It is expected this figure will be even higher by the end of 2015 with new routes are being added all the time, such as the one planned to Gdansk, Poland in June 2015.
The fixed wing aircraft using Aberdeen range significantly in size. One of the most frequent visitors are British Airways A320s operating flights to and from London, and as an international airport, Aberdeen also handles aircraft such as KLM’s B737s, Wideroe Dash8-Q400s and BMI Regional E135s flying to and from destinations outside the UK.
Besides providing air traffic control for business and leisure flights, and for air freight traffic, Aberdeen delivers a vital link to the North Sea oil and gas rigs, transporting people and much needed equipment. Tricky conditions such as strong winds, fog in summer and snow in winter provide further challenges to the NATS’ team in Aberdeen, with high waves around rigs and cloud cover also effecting flights.
Aberdeen is considered a lifeline to some of the Scottish Islands; for example to places such as Shetland, the Aberdeen-based Sumburgh Radar air traffic controllers are key to helping the local population stay in touch with the mainland, helping them access supplies as well as services not readily available on the island.
Safety is always a key consideration and Aberdeen has supported the adoption of Wide Area Multilateration technology, which uses signals from transmitters and receivers fitted to oil and gas platforms to track offshore flights. This enables surveillance to be provided in areas previously beyond radar coverage and provides environmental and financial benefits in terms of more efficient routes, in addition to the more obvious safety benefits.
The area served by Aberdeen is impacted by Danger Areas and contains large areas of ‘uncontrolled’ Class G airspace as well as a Class D Control Zone around the airport itself. The offshore operation covers airspace from Norwich (Anglia Radar area) all the way up and around the UK eastern seaboard to boundaries with Norway and Iceland.
Hear what John Millar, NATS’ General Manager at Aberdeen Airport has to say about the service his team provides to both fixed wing aircraft and the numerous helicopters. Aberdeen Airport is so much more than the world’s busiest heliport as this video shows.
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