You might have read recently about the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes to implement change in our operation. And whilst those unsung heroes undoubtedly have a major role to play, it is not down to them alone to ensure that change is implemented in a safe and timely manner.
In a world where aeronautical information changes all the time, it’s important there is a standardised approach to making those changes. One of the management processes that NATS use to make operationally significant changes is ‘AIRAC’. But what is ‘AIRAC’, and why do we use it?
AIRAC (Aeronautical Information Regulation and Control) is a 28-day cycle that manages the updating of aeronautical information globally. It was adopted in 1964 by ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) and has been used ever since.
The AIRAC cycle ensures that, around the world, information is always revised simultaneously. The days that information changes become operational (known as effective days) are internationally pre-determined and means that ‘effective days’ always fall on the same day of the week; Thursday. And today (23rd April 2020) is an effective day.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, changes are needed to systems for the longer term. But only those changes assessed as critical to the business are being applied, given the situation.
So why do we use the AIRAC cycle? For safety and efficiency, it’s essential that everyone from pilots, to ANSPs (air navigation service providers) and air traffic controllers around the globe have access to a consistent set of data, and that flight management systems are inputted with the same information.
The AIRAC cycle makes sure that information is changed consistently, globally.. It also ensures that information changes are provided to aeronautical data users well in advance so they can update their flight management systems.
But you might be wondering what happens when we need to make an urgent change to airspace, and we can’t wait 28 days? Well, AIRAC isn’t the only way of making change. On occasions where we have to make urgent or temporary changes (for anything from hazards caused by air shows to runway closures and movements by heads of state), we use a completely different system, known as NOTAM (which stands for “notice to airmen”).
With a combination of using management processes and the skills of unsung heroes around our business, we’re able to make changes to our operation in the confidence that it will not impact safety. We’re committed to working with the UK and global aviation industries to continue to make changes that will advance (and future-proof) aviation. To find out more about these changes, visit our Future Airspace page.
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