The weekend of the 7th-9th July marked a pivotal moment for aviation. Our Shanwick Oceanic ATC team, based in NATS Prestwick Centre, Scotland, set new benchmarks for Oceanic traffic movements, whilst delivering high levels of efficiency and safety.
On Friday, 7th July, they efficiently managed a 2023 record-breaking 1,720 aircraft movements. They then continued to surpass these figures, on Saturday, 8th July, 1,736 aircraft movements were handled, pushing the boundaries even further. The next day they made history, achieving a record of 1,805 aircraft movements, the highest number of Oceanic movements ever seen in a 24-hour period – 54 more than the previous record set in 2018!
What’s more, these figures were achieved without the need for any regulations in our airspace. These numbers demonstrate commitment to service performance by all our team.
Our Oceanic ATC teams always aim to provide an exceptional level of service performance and managed air traffic, ensuring the highest standards of safety and efficiency throughout the record-breaking weekend.
Nicky Mason was the Oceanic Supervisor tasked with managing the team on Sunday Morning. Here is what Nicky had to say:
“From the onset, given the indications on our traffic prediction tools; Sunday was always going to be a busy day. We slowly and proactively opened additional ATC workstations to match the predicted traffic numbers, which allowed us to break up the airspace into smaller, more manageable sectors/chunks. It soon became apparent, to all concerned, that it was going to be an exceptionally busy day.
As I have come to expect as an Oceanic Group Supervisor, the duty ATC Controllers and Support Staff quietly and unexcitedly focused on the job in hand, albeit with all hands to the pump. We even managed to facilitate a trainee evaluation!
By 13:00 UTC , the traffic prediction tools displayed 1724 Shanwick flights so we had already recognised it was potentially going to be a record-breaking day.
For the entire shift, all on duty displayed the calm consummate professionalism that has become the norm throughout the Oceanic teams. An exceptionally busy yet satisfying and importantly safe day for all concerned.”
A vital factor contributing to these achievements is Space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (SB ADS-B) technology. By leveraging ADS-B data transmitted from satellites, our Air Traffic Control teams have enhanced situational awareness and improved their ability to manage air traffic. This revolutionary technology has enabled real-time tracking of aircraft throughout the North Atlantic. With accurate and timely information at their disposal, and significantly reduced separation standards, controllers can make informed decisions and guide aircraft more efficiently, ultimately enhancing safety and stopping the requirements for punitive regulations or poor clearance trajectories.
In fact, over the weekend, 70% of aircraft achieved their exact requested trajectory at the Oceanic Entry point, and 85% of aircraft obtained their requested flight level or higher in their initial Oceanic Clearance. Compare this to the pre-SB ADS-B era, where we were only able to provide 61% of flights with their requested trajectory in their initial clearance, and that was with a significantly lower volume of 1,374 flights per day.
We applaud our Oceanic Air Traffic Control teams for their achievements. Their dedication and professionalism allow us to continue offering a high level of service, even when we are witnessing record breaking traffic. As we move forward, we remain committed to putting our airline customers first and focussing on delivering a safe and efficient service every day.
North Atlantic Skies, 2018
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