Last week we looked at airspace from the very highest level – the Flight Information Regions. UK airspace is divided into three; the London, Scottish and Shanwick Oceanic FIRs
The Scottish FIR covers the skies over Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Shanwick Oceanic FIR covers a region of airspace totalling 700,000 square miles over the North East Atlantic and adjoins the Gander FIR that’s looked after by our Canadian friends. You can see how the jigsaw of FIRs fits together by tapping the ‘airspace’ button on the Airspace Explorer dashboard.
NATS manages the airspace within the FIRs from our two centres – one in Swanwick and the other in Prestwick, Ayrshire. The air traffic controllers who work there use radar to safely guide aircraft that might be hundreds of miles away.
But even with Swanwick and Prestwick there are different teams of controllers doing different types of controlling.
Swanwick Centre, which has been in operation since 2002, combines:
The London Area Control Centre (LACC) which manages en route traffic in the London Flight Information Region. This includes en route airspace over England and Wales up to the Scottish border.
The London Terminal Control Centre (LTCC) which handles traffic below 24,500 feet (although this varies slightly in some places) flying to or from London’s airports. This area, one of the busiest in the world, extends south and east to the borders of France and the Netherlands, west towards Bristol and north to near Birmingham.
Military Air Traffic Control which provides services to military aircraft (and civil aircraft when required) operating outside of controlled airspace. They work closely with civilian controllers to ensure the safe co-ordination of traffic.
Prestwick Centre, which has been in operation since 2010, combines three areas of responsibility:
Prestwick Centre Lower Airspace South (PC LA South), which controls aircraft over much of the north of England, the Midlands and north Wales from 2,500 feet up to 28,500 feet.
The Scottish Area Control Centre (ScACC), which controls aircraft over Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England and the North Sea from 2,500 feet up to 66,000 feet.
The Oceanic Area Control Centre (OACC), which controls the airspace over the eastern half of the North Atlantic from the Azores (45 degrees north) to a boundary with Iceland (61 degrees north). With no radar coverage over the ocean, aircraft are controlled procedurally and mainly follow tracks set each day.
So that covers both Flight Information Regions and how the aircraft within them are controlled from our two centres.
Don’t forget you can explore all this and see it happening in real time through our new Airspace Explorer app, available to download now from the App Store.
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