Over the past few years we’ve been making use of airspace visualisations to help explain the complex chorography that goes into safely guiding up to 8,000 flights a day through UK airspace.  

Those animations have been hugely successful in telling that story and we’ve been delighted and humbled by people’s reaction to them.  They provide a sense of the scale around what our air traffic controllers do, helping pilots to get thousands of people safely to their destinations each day  

But what they don’t do is show the effort, teamwork and coordination that sits behind each and every one of those flights. They show the big picture, not the detail. 

That’s the story we want to tell with Plane Talking, an amazing new visualisation we’ve created that focuses on just one single flight amongst the thousands we handle on a daily basis. In fact, it’s one of the shortest regular flights that occurs in UK airspace; the BA shuttle service from Heathrow to Manchester.  

This journey is both totally unremarkable and hugely enlightening, showing every stage of the flight; from the pilot requesting start up and push back at Heathrow to finally parking on stand, at the gate in Manchester 

As you scroll down the timeline, you’ll hear every one of the 73 radio transmissions between air traffic control and the pilot. Everything is based on transcripts from the real flight, with the pilot speaking to nine different air traffic controllers based in four different locations. You’ll see each instruction ‘translatedinto plain English, along with a number of ‘explainers’ that explore questions like why aircraft take off into the wind; the differences between ‘altitude’ and ‘flight level’ and how airport runways are named.   

You can read more about how to interpret Plane Talking in this handy guide.

Even though it’s one of the shortest flights we handle, I believe it provides a wonderful insight into the dedication and professionalism that sits behind every one. And you’ll see, for the sake of clarity we’re only showing this one flight, not the many others that would have been operating at the same time.

We’re really interested in what you think, so please take a look and let us know. We’re especially keen to hear about what other stories you might like us to look at in this style.  

We hope you enjoy it, and if you really like it, I hope it might also inspire you to consider a career in aviation. 


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Fascinating! For an airline geek like myself this was most interesting hearing all of the radio calls, and the visuals of where the aircraft was. Huge well done to all involved 🙂



Phil Hart

Great to follow and to understand the procedures in use. Even for a seasoned airbander this was very useful. Thanks very much.



Stepehn Gafson

Really enjoyed this. Interesting to see the sector names paired with their frequencies. Could you produce this for the other sectors in the UK?



Mark Lincoln

Brilliant stuff , will there be anymore put up?



Barry Martin Edwards

Excellent.Thank You.


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