In tonight’s episode of Skies Above Britain, you will see Steven and the team in London Terminal Control dealing with the impact of a swathe of thunder storms moving through the south east of England.

Dealing with bad weather is one of the most difficult things for air traffic controllers to manage. Its unpredictable nature means aircraft aren’t able to fly their usual routes, resulting in unusual flight patterns that add hugely to the complexity of the airspace and the workload for each controller.

Tonight’s episode will give you an insight into what that means for the controllers in London Terminal Control at Swanwick, and the tools they have to help manage the situation by working with the airlines and airports to reduce the flow of aircraft through our airspace. But what does bad weather look like in terms of the impact in the skies?

We’ve taken a day’s worth of flight data from 14 February 2014 to try and show you. Why 14 February? Far from being romantic, it remains one of the worst days of weather in the UK in recent years. Heavy rain and severe gales lashed much of the country, with gusts of 60–70mph widely recorded, and even 80–90mph along the coasts. In short, very difficult conditions to fly in.

Watching the video you’ll see how the strengthening winds heap layer upon layer of complexity on what is already one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world.

Keep a close eye on each of the airports and you’ll see dozens of ‘go-arounds’ as pilots choose to abort their landings and either re-join the queue or fly elsewhere. And as the airspace gets ever busier, more holding stacks open for waiting aircraft while the team at Swanwick work out a plan to get everyone down safely.

It’s a day that’s still remembered by the controllers in Terminal Control, but thanks to their skill and professionalism and some incredible teamwork with the airlines and airports, every plane landed safely and without a single loss of the required separation.

Compare it to a normal day and you’ll see just what a difference bad weather can make.


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