ATC exhibition opens at Museum of Computing

14 May 2015

An air traffic control exhibition was officially opened at The National Museum of Computing today unveiling the interactive display that highlights the past, present and future of air traffic control.

Sponsored by NATS, the UK’s leading air traffic management company, the setting of the exhibition in The National Museum of Computing has particular historic resonance because Bletchley Park, where the museum is located, was previously home to the company’s engineering training college.

The exhibition will appeal to a wide variety of the public and offer insight into the behind the scenes world that supports everyday air travel, which will astonish visitors.

Some features of the exhibition include an old green-screen round IRIS radar display, along with the working PDP-11 hardware that powers the system, a Swanwick Alpha workstation that can host Area or Terminal Control scenarios and a 3D tower simulator console.

All can be left in a ‘replay’ mode so visitors can observe aircraft movements and listen to radio transmits between the controller and pilots. Alternatively, they can take up position at the simulators and experience, hands-on, being a controller while a member of the museum team acts as a pseudo pilot.

Alongside the displays is a representation of NATS history interspersed with video footage, as well as artefacts such as the first National Airspace System (NAS) logbook and the final flight strip for Concorde.

The exhibition was formally opened at an official ceremony by the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor Derek Eastman.

Gary Gibson, Engineering General Manager NATS, said: “NATS has historic ties with Bletchley and so we were delighted to continue our association with this new exhibition, which is an ideal addition to The National Museum of Computing’s displays. Air traffic control is a fascinating subject and one which we’re sure the public will enjoy learning about and interacting with.”

Tim Reynolds, Chairman of The National Museum of Computing, said: “The Museum’s earlier restoration of NATS’ IRIS air traffic control system has been a draw for several years, so this new gallery incorporating hands-on opportunities will certainly appeal to our visitors. We aim to inspire and enthuse the next generation of engineers and computer scientists. This Gallery is a terrific example of the pervasiveness of computing technology and highlights the breadth of employment opportunities that await budding engineers and coders.”

For details of when the museum is open and the exhibition can be viewed, please see



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