Every year Armistice Day on 11 November provides a powerful focus for national remembrance and reflection and, for many, this year holds particular significance as the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest confrontations of the First World War. So how can NATS help respect the silence when it is controlling hundreds of flights in the skies above us?

The wearing of poppies and two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day itself – at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month – mark a nation’s respect and gratitude for those who fought and died in the service of their country.

So it’s important the silence is as complete as possible, and at NATS we are proud to play our part.

Working together with airports and airlines, we put air traffic control restrictions in place to limit aircraft operations immediately before, and during, the silences, both as a mark of respect and to minimise the risk of noise disturbing the many commemoration events being held up and down the country. At many UK airports a two-minute Armistice Day silence will be observed.

Manchester Airport air traffic control tower

Manchester Airport air traffic control tower

At Manchester Airport, a number of Acts of Remembrance are held on each day and, with the exception of taxiing, no aircraft movements will take place at the airfield during the silence periods. Careful planning by the airport controllers will ensure any aircraft already on approach is able to complete its landing before the curfew starts – any other traffic will be held away from the airport until the controllers are certain that the landings will occur after the two-minute silences.

At Heathrow, departing aircraft are invited to avoid pushbacks, start-ups or the ground-running of engines, while arrivals leaving the runway are instructed to taxi on low power in order to keep noise to an absolute minimum.

And, for the few minutes before and after 11 o’clock on Remembrance Sunday, no Heathrow arrivals or departures are allowed – our Terminal Control colleagues re-route flights to avoid London’s Whitehall and the Cenotaph and, if wind conditions dictate that Heathrow is working on Easterly Operations, NATS air traffic controllers in our Swanwick centre will make sure there are no aircraft on final approach within ten miles of the airport.

It’s the least we can do to help the nation remember.

Photo by Susanne Nilsson via Flickr


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