Controllers unite for Royal International Air Tattoo

17 July 2015

Air traffic controllers from across the civil military divide will come together this weekend to help wow the crowds at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), held at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire.

Ten volunteers from NATS and five from non-NATS air traffic control units will be working side-by-side with their military counterparts in what is a unique air traffic operation.

More than 1,000 aircraft movements are expected over the weekend involving a huge range of aircraft, from Typhoons and Tornadoes to Spitfires and Hurricanes as well as one of the last ever flights by a Vulcan bomber.

Each display has to be carefully rehearsed and integrated with other aircraft flying and involves year-round planning for the show; once one event closes, planning for the next begins.

Civil and military controllers will work in partnership to control the same aircraft. Approach control is provided by the military who then safely navigate the aircraft to the civil controllers working in the tower.

Ian Revell, an air traffic controller for NATS based in the Manchester tower, has been volunteering at the air show for 27 years.

Ian Revell, NATS Watch Manager and Fairford Manager of Air Traffic Services, said: “It’s great fun working at RIAT, one of the most significant international air shows in the calendar.  During the week controllers, both civil and military, will safely handle a diverse range of aircraft, which will include fighter jets, trainer aircraft as well as vintage aeroplanes.

“I enjoy being part of a wider team that ensures visitors have an enjoyable and safe time at the show.”

NATS will also be encouraging the next generation of engineers and aviation enthusiasts with games representing challenges faced by NATS and the aviation industry.

Graduates from the Early Careers Scheme at NATS will show eight to 16-year-olds various games and activities they have designed. These include a Separation game focussing on wake vortices and how NATS ensures aircraft  are safely separated in the sky as well as an Approach Controller Activity, giving students the chance to see how a controller lands aircraft on a runway as closely as possible, but in a safe and controlled way in order to maximise capacity.

The games are a fun way for young people to see a simplified version of the challenges in the aviation industry and learn to problem solve.

Mark Aspin, a Project Manager graduate at NATS, said: “I’ve wanted a career in aviation since I was a child boarding an aeroplane with my family on holiday. Working as a project manager at NATS has given me the chance to fulfil this ambition and I hope by educating young people at RIAT about the importance of technology, maths, engineering and science we will help inspire future engineers and air traffic controllers.”


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