What is a FISO?

Many people, when they think about NATS, think of Air Traffic Controllers and the fantastic job they undertake on a daily basis.

However, the control service is only one aspect of the air traffic services provided to commercial and general aviation by NATS. Another aspect is the basic service FISOs (Flight Information Service Officers) give to aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace from our two control centres – Swanwick and Prestwick.

A “basic service” is a flight information service, which is provided for the purpose of giving advice and useful information for the safe and efficient conduct of flights. This includes information such as weather information, changes of serviceability of facilities, conditions at aerodromes, and general airspace activity information as well as any other information likely to affect safety.

Here at the Prestwick Centre, FISOs, including myself, provide a basic service between 08:00 to 20:00, local time, up to FL55 (roughly up to altitude 5,500ft). Outside these times and levels the service is provided by air traffic controllers on other sectors.

The FISO licence does not cover radar-based surveillance or the issue of executive commands to aircraft; in other words we don’t monitor aircraft using radar or tell them what to do. We rely on the information pilots give us to help us form the traffic ‘picture’ and refer to a 1:500k VFR (Visual Flight Rules) chart, which gives us an idea of where their reported route will take them. Avoiding other air traffic is solely the pilot’s responsibility; however generic air traffic information may be provided by the FISO, dependant on workload.

Officially, air traffic operating outside controlled airspace does not have to speak to anybody at all. This allows great freedom for pilots, especially over the vast and beautiful terrain of Scotland, but this is not always the safest option. To my mind, the most important function of the FISO is to provide an alerting service, so should anything go wrong we can quickly notify search and rescue, as well as other relevant agencies, so we can all assist the aircraft should they be in a situation of urgency or distress. It is far easier to provide assistance if the pilot has already called in on the frequency and given us the key flight details than if we are unaware of them and their plans.

The Scottish FIR (Flight Information Region) is looked after by a team of FISOs who between them have many years of ATC (air traffic control) experience. As well as trying to make our customers’ flights as safe and efficient as possible, we endeavour to make our service as friendly as possible.

We also have a new FISO Twitter account at Prestwick, which will be used in addition to our usual communications. This is not a replacement for our current communication procedures, so pilots will still need to file flight plans and communicate with our FISOs in the usual ways, but the Twitter account will be there to give more information, share pictures and provide just one more way for the aviation community to share news and views. The Twitter account is @NATSScotInfo if you’d like to follow us.

If you are flying through our airspace, please feel free to give us a call on 119.875MHz, we would love to hear from you.

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27.11.2015

12:35

Spambhoy

“Hail” ? Seriously ?!

26.01.2016

19:59

Andy

Interesting reading – thanks. You should put more things like this on here. I tried to find out details about Scottish Info, and there is very little.
Thanks
A

29.01.2016

12:21

Jake Barley

Hi Andy, thanks for the comment. What kind of details are you looking for about Scottish Information? We can expand in a further blog post if we haven’t covered any questions you have.

30.01.2016

07:21

Andy

Hi jake. I’m just a microlight pilot, just qualified last year and getting to grips with flights a bit further away. I used Scottish information just once on a longer than usual flight and it’s very comforting knowing you are there.. lots of pilots take the knowledge for granted but it’s not always easy to find out the basics online. I knew to contact SI but didn’t know where it was based or how it worked. This article was ideal. These blogs are interesting for students/new pilots so please continue with even the basic stuff. I was at the flyer show at Telford and one of the most interesting chats I has was with one of your guys about infringements and the knock on effect it can have. Keep up the good work 🙂

02.02.2016

08:05

Jake Barley

Andy – Great to hear you enjoy flying and that you spoke to us when you ventured up North! Keep an eye out for some more blogs from us that expand further on our role as FISOs!


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