Go behind the scenes at air traffic control in major new TV series

10 August 2016

The air traffic controllers at NATS are among the stars of the newly announced BBC Two series, Skies Above Britain, which seeks to shine a light on the unseen side of UK aviation.

With unprecedented access to the Swanwick air traffic control centre in Hampshire, the series will give viewers a unique insight into the vital role controllers play in safely guiding thousands of flights every-day.

From dealing with the impact of severe weather and aircraft emergencies through to the sheer scale and complexity of the everyday operation, each of the five episodes will provide a window on the skill and professionalism of the hidden army of air traffic controllers watching over the skies.

Viewers will go behind the scenes at Swanwick, following the controllers whose job it is to manage the traffic in and out of London’s five busy international airports, as well as in the control tower at Heathrow, the busiest dual runway airport in the world.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS Operations Director, said: “People often only think of air traffic control in terms of the tower at the airport, so we wanted to be part of this series to help demonstrate how that’s really only a part of the picture.

“In reality there are hundreds of people at our two control centres in Swanwick and Prestwick in Scotland whose job it is to keep your flight safe and they do that 24 hours a day 365 days a year.”

But as well as the skill and expertise of the UK’s air traffic controllers, the series also highlights the sheer variety of airspace users and just how congested the skies have become.

Juliet continues: “Much of the controlled airspace that we use in the UK has its origins back in the 1950s and is in major need to modernisation if we’re going to cope with the kind of rising demand that’s forecast over the next 10 years.”

Analysis by NATS suggests that without the necessary airspace modernisation delays could reach 50 times what they are today at a cost of £1bn to airlines.

“As an island national that depends on aviation, we can’t afford to let that happen.”

Skies Above Britain starts on Wednesday 17 August at 9pm on BBC Two.

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