Airspace

Collaboration has always been a key part of the way we work at NATS and even during these socially distanced times, we have continued to work closely, even if remotely, with our partners. This has been demonstrated most recently by our work with LVNL, the Dutch air traffic navigation services provider, running Intelligent Approach simulations while maintaining social distancing and engaging virtually across national borders.

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Another heatwave is on the way and with rising temperatures and clear skies comes an increase in General Aviation traffic. Every summer, we see many light aircraft taking to the skies and enjoying for the most part, an uneventful flight in UK airspace. However, this does coincide with an increase in the number of infringements of controlled airspace and this has not been helped by the changing operating hours of some areas during the Covid-19 pandemic, as airports and airlines try to match operating hours and flying schedules with changing levels of demand.

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The general assumption is that traffic is likely to increase slowly through to the end of the year, but we have to be ready to handle traffic whenever it returns. There’s no way airspace can be a constraint on regeneration so that means careful planning within our operation.

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It’s six weeks since air traffic pretty much disappeared from our skies and whichever flight tracking app you might use, you’re not seeing much on it any more. For our air traffic controllers, it’s now like working a permanent night shift, bumping along at around 10% of normal traffic levels. Many of our controllers have been furloughed though, as key workers, it is important we rotate them through the operation and that we have an on-call shift in reserve at all times, to maintain resilience.  And to be ready for a restart, whenever and however that might happen.

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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?

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Thinking back through the major crises I’ve worked through during my professional life and nothing has come close to the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on both our industry.

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From time to time, you might hear us talk about airspace changes. But we rarely talk about the work that goes on behind the scenes to deliver the end result. Every change is broken down into elements, all managed by different teams – from safety experts to engineers who work closely to put their individual puzzle pieces together. These teams must ensure they deliver their pieces of the puzzle on time so that projects don’t slip, and airspace changes can always be delivered on the date that has been planned.

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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. 

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We’ve often talked about the need to modernise UK airspace. It hasn’t seen any significant redesign since it was first mapped out in the 1950s. But, since then, the type and number of aircraft flying through our airspace have changed dramatically. We have been exploring what our future airspace could look like; what it could […]

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Our Road-Map to Net Zero

It’s now 15 years since Sustainable Aviation was set up, a unique coalition across the aviation industry established to work collectively and collaboratively to reduce the impact of our operations on the environment.

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