Understanding ATC

Airspace infringements by General Aviation pilots entering controlled airspace remain the biggest risk to the air traffic operation and they are becoming a daily occurrence in the summer months. An infringement occurs when an aircraft enters a volume of airspace without gaining permission, and they can have a huge impact on the system causing aircraft to be diverted, put into holds or held on the ground.

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Earlier this year, in a meeting with aviation industry executives at the White House, President Donald Trump called the U.S air traffic arrangements “obsolete”. Perhaps surprising to his many critics, he’s actually not alone in his thinking as the majority of airlines agree with his plans to liberalise and even privatise the country’s air traffic control organisation.

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I haven’t met any aviators who don’t think Pre-Flight Planning is important, although I have met quite a few who have been caught out by not doing enough of it at some point in their flying life – including myself.

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Frequency Monitor Codes (FMCs) have now been in use in the UK for over 10 years and they’ve collected a range of names during that time such as Listening Squawks and Monitor Codes but they are all actually referring to the same thing.

Pilots are encouraged to use a FMC when they are flying outside controlled airspace, but close to controlled airspace boundaries, in order to increase situational awareness and help to combat infringements.

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Both London and Scottish Flight Information Services (FIS) provide assistance to General Aviation (GA), Military and Commercial Aircraft within the Class G airspace, outside of controlled airspace, covering the whole of the UK. Pilots don’t have to call and use the service, but here’s some information on why we think you should consider it….

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At NATS we believe increasing diversity in engineering is vital for several reasons, not least because we need to expand the pool of engineering talent (both male and female) as our needs evolve, but also because we have some truly ground-breaking developments on the horizon.

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As the flying season is now well underway, we thought we’d provide a deeper look over the coming weeks, at some of the services that are available to pilots. Today we’re starting with the Lower Airspace Radar Service (LARS).

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Last month we launched Airspace Explorer, our flight tracking and airspace education app and as such, I’ve been digging into how our airspace is made up and how it remains the foundation of our aviation industry. Today I’m looking at airspace classifications, the differences between them and what they mean for the people who fly through them.

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NATS manages UK airspace from our two centres – one in Swanwick and the other in Prestwick, Ayrshire – and the air traffic controllers who work there use radar to safely guide aircraft that might be hundreds of miles away.

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Last week we launched Airspace Explorer, our beta app that uses real radar data to track aircraft in the UK. One of the things we want to achieve was to highlight the importance and structure of our airspace – the invisible and hidden road network in the sky in which our controllers manage flows of air traffic.

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