Human Factors

A good interface makes the difference between feeling confused and overwhelmed or effortlessly in control. That’s important if it’s your mobile phone, but when the safety of thousands of passengers is potentially at stake, it is absolutely paramount. 

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Any company’s most important asset is its people, and NATS is no exception. People are our lynchpin in the safe and efficient management of our increasingly busy skies and advances in technological developments across the air traffic management (ATM) industry.

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As Air Traffic Management (ATM) becomes ever-busier, more complex and more inter-connected across different Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), it is timely to consider how human performance is best optimised for smooth, efficient and safe handling of air traffic.

Human performance is especially important in ATM as it is a 24/7 industry which strongly depends on people. Aviation needs its frontline staff to be on top performance in order to maintain the safety and efficiency of the air transport system.

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At Heathrow we have a great relationship with London’s Air Ambulance team at the Royal London Hospital. I was recently asked to speak at a human factors symposium organised by London’s Air Ambulance Institute of Pre-Hospital Care at the Queen Mary University of London’s Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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What do aviation and elite sports have in common?

‘If Nike ran air traffic control, what would it look like’, explains how NATS uses techniques associated with elite sports to help its people keep the skies safe. This was the basis of a recent speech delivered at the annual Leaders Sport Performance in London, with the likes of Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger and former England cricket coach Andy Flower as fellow keynote speakers.

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With four and half thousand employees, NATS has a variety of specialists supporting our operation. Air Traffic Controllers, Engineers and Analysts are all key, but you’re probably not aware of some our smaller specialist teams – such as our medical team of four qualified doctors.

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The ATM world is undergoing unprecedented change. We are subject to new competing and conflicting demands, new regulations and regulators and a pace of technological change which our industry has not previously experienced.So what does this mean for the way we shape future strategy?

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The use of automation is common place in our lives today. Whether we’re getting money out of the “hole in the wall” or using a SatNav to help us get to our destination, we take automation for granted. Where does automation fit in air traffic control and does it have a place?

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There’s been a lot of news in the press recently about pilots falling asleep on the job. So what better time for our very own Head of Human Factors, Neil May, to talk about the work being done at NATS to combat fatigue and ensure that controllers at the top of their game when at work.

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    4000 Parkway
    Whiteley
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