This week we said a bittersweet adios to FerroNATS, the pioneering Spanish joint venture we originally set up with Ferrovial Servicios – now Serveo – over a decade ago in 2011.

FerroNATS is now wholly owned by Portobello Capital and will go by the new name of Skyway.

FerroNATS was born when the Spanish government announced plans to liberalise air traffic control services at 12 airports. The ambition was to open the national air traffic control sector up to competition in search of efficiency gains, greater resilience and innovation.

Following a very competitive tender process that attracted bids involving many of Europe’s top air traffic service providers, FerroNATS emerged as the front runner and immediately began planning the transition of a number of towers across Spain. All were very varied in type, from smaller but busy general aviation airfields through to international airports at some of Spain’s most important tourist destinations.

This was a huge undertaking, including recruiting of more than 100 air traffic controllers in just eight months, submitting all the safety case documentation required for a change of supplier, completing various training processes, and ultimately the transfer of responsibility itself.

With hindsight, it’s easy to forget now how brave and innovative this all was. At first it required us to embed a number of our own operational, business and safety experts, but over the years we’ve reduced our level of direct involvement to the point where it now runs entirely independently. Fast forward a decade and we’re leaving a thriving, well established ANSP, one that is successfully running eight towers across Spain – Sabadell, Valencia, Seville, Ibiza, Alicante, Murcia, Lleida y La Seu d’Urgell– and safely managing almost half a million aircraft movements and over 28 million passengers every year.

When it was announced that tower services were to liberalised across Europe as part of the Single European Sky initiative, it was hoped it would disrupt the market and usher in an era of greater competition and innovation. Where competition has been allowed – including in the UK – it has helped drive down costs, encouraged innovation and created a more customer-centric market without compromising on safety or performance.

FerroNATS has been the perfect example of that approach in action.

After more than 10 years and a huge amount of hard work, it has still achieved everything we hoped. There’s no doubt we’ve also learned an awful lot about running a joint venture, but with the change in ownership at Ferrovial Servicios now feels like the right time for us to step back. That’s not to say we don’t expect to still work together on new projects, and we’ve signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement to signal the strength of that intent.

We leave proud of what FerroNATS has achieved and confident of Skyway’s on-going success.

Adios y buena suerte.


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