Understanding ATC

Happy International Day of the air traffic controller, our favourite day of the year!

At NATS, every day is a day to celebrate the amazing work that our controllers do, but we always like doing something extra special on October 20th.

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This morning you might have seen British Airway’s last two Heathrow based B747s head off to retirement including a stunning low-level go-around over the airport, but how do you pull something like that off?

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In our response to the impact the pandemic is having on the aviation industry, we have prioritised protecting operational jobs to ensure we have the capacity to manage traffic when it returns. However, the industry is not predicting a return to 2019 traffic levels until 2024 or even 2025, which means painful decisions cannot be avoided. 

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The voting is over. The poll is closed. The hustings are at an end. After weeks of searching for the definitive answer to what is the greatest single technological innovation in the history or air traffic control, we have an answer.

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Since March, we have all been impacted in some way by the measures and changes that we have had to make in response to COVID-19. Our suppliers have also been impacted and their response during this time has been a real testament to the strong relationships we have built over the years

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This week I spoke at The Journey Towards Autonomy in Civil Aerospace event organised by the Aerospace Technology Institute, addressing the challenges of fully automating ATM.   We tend to think of autonomous things as being about self-driving cars or machines doing things without any human input, but automation is something we are now becoming used to in our everyday lives. From our phones making suggestions for us, to our TVs automatically recording […]

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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 […]

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Seventy years ago, there was a revolution in air travel. Radio Detection and Ranging – or ‘radar’ – gave air traffic controllers their eyes on the skies. They could see aircraft, in real time, anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. The truth is radar has always had one inescapable limitation – you need something solid to build one on…

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For my money the advent of flight data processing and the revolution in capacity and safety it has brought about absolutely deserves its moment in the spotlight in the history of air traffic control. Modern aviation simply wouldn’t exist without it.   

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