Over the past five weeks, we’ve heard about the best and most brilliant innovations in air traffic control history.

From radio in the 1920’s, radar and flight data processing right up to real-time satellite surveillance and digital towers, which are revolutionising ATC today, which one do you think has been the most transformative and the greatest?


In your opinion, what is the greatest innovation in the history of air traffic control?

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    We’ve had a lot of feedback and comments from colleagues in the industry, aviation geeks, spotters and enthusiasts, everyone is keen to offer their views:

    “Although radio is still an indispensable tool in the provision of ATC, the advent of radar was, in my opinion, the greatest innovation in air traffic control in the last 100 years, allowing to increase flight safety and facilitate air navigation for pilots and air traffic controllers in order to make it possible to shorten distances, decrease flight time, fuel economy, less impact on the environment and user satisfaction.”


    “Totally agree and we’re hugely proud to say we were there at the start as an early adopter and innovator in this field…”

    Bytron Aviation Systems

    But what do you think? Take our poll and send us your feedback so we can decide on the winner – the greatest air traffic control innovation of the past 100 years. Maybe your favourite isn’t even listed here. If not, let us know!

    Find out more about the origins of air traffic control 100 years ago – the people, the places, the innovations – nats.aero/atc100.


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    In my view, from a completely fundamental principle and considering procedural control Radio is the core tentant of ATC and thus the greatest innovation. (Until silent control is the norm… watch this space…)



    Andy Amor

    Radio and Radar (both PSR and SSR) would be top of the list, and without a proper FDP system (like NAS) it would be impossible to handle large volumes of air traffic safely and efficiently. Missing from your list is a Trajectory Management System. These provided a step change from the traditional “procedural” based ATC, albeit widely supported by RADAR.

    iFACTS (a NATS joint product) was the first operational trajectory management system in the world and arguably remains the best, anywhere. It’s introduction at Swanwick transformed the way En-Route ATC was performed, making it even more efficient and importantly with higher traffic levels, much safer.

    The combination of NAS (FDP), NERC (Flight Data Management) and iFACTS (Trajectory Management) is very hard to better. Other systems do not come close.



    Carol-Anne Garven

    I think probably Radar. But as an LAPL, one of the most comforting things when you’re flying in unknown territory, is being able to talk to someone. Who knows where you are…well, because of Radar. Hats off to the Air Traffic Controllers!



    Steve Balfour

    Flight progress strips.



    Steve Balfour

    Flight Progress Strips. When all else fails, if you have a radio and a pen, you’re still in business.




    I voted for radio, even though I am an ex avionics engineer specialising in airborne radar (TACAN especially). My reason for this vote is because radar can tell you where the aircraft is, height/ speed etc. but without radio communication how could you control the aircraft? Today we have all the digital/technical innovations but in years gone by this was not available. No radio communication….no control…the clue is in the title…Air Traffic “Control”.



    Laura Mato

    Really It is very difficult yo choose one of the options, because all of them contributes yo have an innovate Air traffic managment system!!



    Peter Hargreaves

    Number 1 is radio for me – No 2 is flight data – No 3 is primary radar – No 4 is secondary radar. Each in that list builds on those before.


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