This year marks 100 years since the birth of air traffic control services in the UK – at Croydon Airport in south London. Today, we are on the verge of another revolution in air traffic control.  

Quite rightly, there is now huge focus on how we can make flying more environmentally sustainable.  People want to fly, and aviation has opened up global markets that nobody imagined 100 years ago.  We won’t be turning the clock back – we just have to get smarter at how we fly. 

Over the next five years we are investing nearly £750m to replace our existing systems, deliver new support tools, and modernise our airspace, working closely with airports and airlines across the UK. While you might not see much difference from your aircraft seatthe route you’re flying and the technology behind the operation will be very different from today  

We are updating our core ATM infrastructure to a modern and more capable new systemusing the latest technology that were all familiar with, tailored for the operational environment where safety is paramount. 

This will position us at the heart of European ATM developments and support exciting new operational concepts, such as 4D Trajectories, which incorporate time to further optimise flights, and tools to help us share data right across the European system to make travel more seamless and burn less fuel 

Hand in hand with the technology is an altogether new approach to the routes that aircraft fly.  We are modernising UK airspace, using the latest onboard aircraft satellite navigation technology, rather than navigating via beacons on the ground; reducing the need for holding stacksmeaning better continuous climbs and descents, reducing noise for overflown communities and burning less fuel; making routes more direct, more efficient and reducing delay.   

There are many differing interests and priorities, from airspace users, airports, the travelling public and communities below flight paths; all of these will need careful consideration.  The Government has now made modernising airspace part of its Aviation Strategy and the impartial Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), has been created to coordinate the airspace changes required and help us and the airports who are making changes at lower levels, to do so successfully.  

These tools, technologies and concepts will shape the future – meeting people’s desire to fly while managing its impact on the environmentThe changes we are making now and over the next ten years will ensure the UK remains at the forefront and shape the way we travel for the next 100 years 



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Chris Slinger

There are some exciting times ahead. It will be very interesting to see how new technology will help develop these new airways.


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