Airspace

The dramatic fall in traffic we’ve seen across the Atlantic has given us a window of opportunity to do things differently, and to introduce things more quickly than otherwise might have been possible. So, we’re going to disband the Organised Track Structure on days where we don’t believe they are necessary.

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Despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic on our industry, there is much to be optimistic about, and there has never been a better time to recalibrate and change our collective mindset to do things differently in the future. Martin Rolfe, CEO, tells more about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the new decade.

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To allay any anxiety that 2020 may have derailed normal operations, we thought you’d appreciate getting a behind the scenes view of the flight planning process has gone so you can reassure anyone expected a delivery on Christmas Eve. 

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During a series of trial flights, NATS has been working closely with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) to assess how remotely piloted and unmanned aircraft can be used for search and rescue operations by HM Coastguard.

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White cloud streaks high up in the sky are one of the ways you can tell a plane has been overhead. And although they can form striking patterns in the sky, these contrails and the cirrus clouds they induce, impact climate change, possibly greater than the effect from CO2 emissions.

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How we build back better is at the forefront of many people’s minds. But it is wrong to assume that it is only the pandemic that has spurred this action from the aviation industry. In fact, it has only accelerated the work that was already happening to improve the sustainability of flying.

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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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