December 2015


December 2015

Dear Customer,

As we approach the end of another busy year, I wanted to write to you with a reflection on some of the major changes that have taken place this year and to look ahead to some of the key developments coming up in the New Year.

We are seeing steady overall traffic growth (+2% since 2014) with more pronounced growth in the peak periods of the day. NATS attributable delay (i.e. excluding weather) is running at 2.5 seconds average delay per flight for 2015 against a European average of over 35 seconds.

Looking back over the last few months, there have been a number of positive achievements that I think merit a mention. Here are just some:

Time Based Separation (TBS) continues to improve resilience at Heathrow

The continued benefits of TBS was seen during a windy November with 15 days of strong headwinds. We estimate that over 25,000 minutes of delay has been saved versus traditional distance based separation in November 2015 alone. For example on 10 November with 39 knot headwinds at 3000ft, there were no arrival regulations applied and we were landing c.3-4 more aircraft per hour than we would have seen before TBS was implemented. Our analysis also shows that even on days without strong headwinds TBS is delivering benefits with an average of 1.2 additional landings per hour. More…

Cross-border arrival management procedures at Heathrow now permanent

On 31st October the Cross-border arrival management (XMAN) procedures that have been on trial since April were permanently implemented. XMAN sees the UK/Ireland FAB, together with air traffic controllers in France and the Netherlands, extending the Arrival Management (AMAN) horizon across borders for traffic inbound to Heathrow. By slowing streams of arriving aircraft during the cruise phase, flights spend less time in the holding stacks close to the airport, reducing fuel burn and emissions. More…

Unmanned aircraft flies in UK civil airspace

In September air traffic controllers at NATS managed the first flight by an unmanned aircraft in controlled and unsegregated airspace. A Thales Watchkeeper UAS took off from West Wales Airport embarking on the first ever three hour flight. This is a major milestone in the development of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for civil and commercial use. More…

LAMP Phase 1a approved

Phase 1a of the London Airspace Management Programme was approved by the CAA in November. This primarily affects London City arrival and departure routes. This is the first phase of a wider programme of airspace modernisation that needs to take place if we are to safely manage future traffic levels efficiently and effectively. The airspace change is planned to go live in February 2016. More…

Reduced Lateral Separation introduced in the North Atlantic

NATS and Nav Canada have gone live with the first phase of Reduced Lateral Separation (RLAT), safely reducing the lateral separation required between flights in the North Atlantic. This reduction will allow more aircraft to achieve their optimum route and flight level, helping to cut flying times while reducing fuel burn and emissions. More…

NATS installs electronic flight strips at Newcastle

Newcastle International Airport has become the latest UK airport to transition to using state-of-the-art electronic flight progress strips. The project involved NATS designing a unique interface for Newcastle’s controllers, taking account of the airport’s specific requirements while working to ensure seamless integration with the UK’s wider air traffic network. More…

Looking forward to 2016, some of the main areas of focus include:

iTEC deployment in Prestwick Upper Airspace

In the New Year we begin the introduction of iTEC (Interoperability through European Collaboration), our new flight data processing system into Scottish airspace. Whilst you are not likely to experience any operational impact, this is a major milestone on the journey to trajectory-based operations, which in time will enable new ways of working that will bring significant benefits to our customers, paving the way for free route upper airspace.

Additional runway capacity in the South East

We recognise the Government’s acknowledgement of the need for new capacity in the South East and wait to hear the next steps in the Summer. In the meantime we look forward to working closely with the selected airport to ensure that the right airspace structures are in place to support the development.

Government consultation on airspace and noise issues

We are expecting the Government to launch a major consultation on airspace and noise issues in Summer 2016. This is really important for us and I think for you; the UK’s airspace infrastructure needs modernising, regardless of any decision on UK airport capacity, if we are to safely meet future demand without seeing significant growth in delays. Putting in place a robust government framework is vital if we are to be able to make the changes to our airspace infrastructure that will enable us to deliver significant benefits both to our customers and to communities on the ground. More…

I am committed to continuing to work closely with you to ensure that our priorities are aligned and that we continue to deliver the excellent operational performance that I know you all expect of us. I look forward to our continued engagement in 2016 to achieve this and discuss areas of mutual interest.

Kind regards,

Martin Rolfe
Chief Executive Officer


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