NATS Prestwick celebrates ten years of successful operations

05 February 2020

NATS’ Prestwick Centre celebrates its ten-year anniversary this month, marking its official opening by the Princess Royal on 5 February 2010.

The Princess was joined for the opening ceremony by employees, local MPs and civic dignitaries, guests from the local community, airline customers, Government representatives, and contractors who helped to build the new £180m state-of-the-art centre.

The opening of the Centre completed NATS’ transition from four centres (Swanwick, West Drayton, Manchester and Prestwick) to two – Swanwick and Prestwick. In a major logistical exercise, employees at the Manchester Area Control Centre moved north to join their colleagues in Scottish Area Control Centre, Shanwick Oceanic Control and RAF Prestwick, as the new Centre took control of more airspace than any other European control centre.

NATS Prestwick now handles 80% of North Atlantic air traffic (2.2m km2), as well as traffic over Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England. Controllers at Prestwick manage around 3,400 flights every day, totalling around one million flights per year, with peaks of well over 4,000 during the busy summer months. The busiest day ever recorded was on 25 May 2018 with 4,685 movements.

Since its opening, Prestwick Centre has marked many milestones, leading, implementing and utilising ground-breaking technology and procedures. Most recently, this has included the start of trials using ADS-B across the Atlantic, the first ever real-time, global air traffic surveillance system, heralding a new era of safety and efficiency that will revolutionise the way people fly.

Martin Donnan, Prestwick Director, said, “At Prestwick, we are responsible for managing Europe’s transatlantic gateway and as more and more people cross the Atlantic every year, it is up to us and the wider aviation industry to ensure that each and every flight minimises fuel burn and CO2 emissions. We are keen to play our part and build on the work we already do to help aircraft fly the most optimal routes and be as efficient as they can.

“In my four years here, it has been a privilege to see the team deliver an exceptional operational service to our airline and airport customers, day after day with minimal delay, and I look forward with optimism to what the future holds.”

Air traffic numbers continue to increase, with projections of more than a 10% increase in aircraft being handled by the Prestwick Centre by 2025. It is therefore more important than ever to ensure this can be done as sustainably as possible, reducing aviation’s impact on the environment.

As a responsible business, NATS Prestwick is heavily involved in the local community, fundraising for charities such as the Ayrshire Hospice and Alzheimer’s UK and working with schools and universities to encourage students in STEM-related careers – sponsoring research activities and competitions, as well as providing industry insight for teachers and academics.

In a move to increase the geographic and social scope of the Centre’s outreach activities, NATS Prestwick has partnered with the SmartSTEMs charity and delivered STEM workshops and career information to more than 1,500 Primary and Secondary school children on the campus of the local University and Colleges. As well as growing interest and knowledge of STEM and relevant career opportunities, these events have demonstrated the possibility of further and higher education to children who otherwise may not have considered it.

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