NATS – how we got here

For decades, air traffic control for commercial flights in the UK has been keeping the skies safe and creating a more efficient environment for aviation – essentially making the UK’s sky a better place to fly.

With an average of 8,000 flights operating in Britain’s skies each day, NATS manages one of the busiest and most complex airspaces in the world.

But, where did it all start and how did we get here?

Following the Great War, the network of air routes we use today began to develop. By 1950 ‘Green One’, Europe’s first airway opened, followed by a further five the next year. Back then, the skies were relatively quiet, with Heathrow seeing just 30 daily flights compared to the 1,350 it can expect today.

The rise of package holidays in the 1960s spiked a huge increase in air traffic – with up to 15 million passengers taking flight each year. Tasked with providing a route structure for commercial air traffic, NATS – formerly known as National Air Traffic Control Services – was born and by 1977 all of the UK’s upper airspace was managed by air traffic control.

With an increase in the number of flights continuing well into the 1990’s, we are truly in the era of modern mass air travel.

Today, around 2.5 million flights cross the UK’s airspace each year. In fact, this year saw the country’s airspace experience the busiest summer on record – meaning NATS’ work ensuring safe travel for all, became even more important.

We want to celebrate this incredible success story and the vital work of NATS that continues to impact our daily lives. That’s why we’ve decided to finish off our Sky By Numbers competition with a bang – giving one lucky winner the chance to jet off on holiday with a £500 flight voucher.

To enter, simply tell us:

What year were civil air traffic control services introduced into the UK? Is A) 1920 or B) 1940

Whether you’re sure you have the answer, have an inkling you might be right, or just want to take a punt, you could be the winner of this week’s £500 flight voucher, which you can use with more than 300 different airlines.

Head to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels to enter. And don’t forget to include the hashtag #SkyByNumbers in your answer!

Psst… need a clue? It’s earlier than you think…


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Alan Bell

Sky By Numbers ?!

Boy, has this company got a great blog.

Dull would be doing it a favour.


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