Press update: December 2009

16 December 2009


Welcome to the NATS Press Update, a monthly bulletin of news from the UK’s leading air traffic services provider.

The guiding principle of air traffic control is that safety is paramount. Our objective is to maintain and, where practicable, improve standards to achieve the highest levels of safety performance. The whole structure and culture of NATS is built around safety.

Within this safety driven environment, we deliver an efficient, effective service to our customers, directing over 2.4 million flights and 220 million passengers safely through some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world each year.

Copenhagen/Sustainable Aviation

As a founding member of Sustainable Aviation, (SA) a coalition of aviation companies committed to ensuring the industry’s sustainable future, NATS supported the role of SA in responding to the aviation report of the Climate Change Committee, set up to report back to Parliament on the progress made in cutting carbon for the UK as a whole. The group produced a letter and manifesto reaffirming its roadmap target of cutting emissions by 2050 back to levels recorded in 2005. There is every confidence this will be achieved through continuing innovation in air traffic management and further improvement in airframe and engine technology.

SA also sent its manifesto to every government taking part in the Copenhagen environment summit. For more information, go to

NATS reduces ATC delays for 2009

NATS has reduced the average air traffic control related delay per flight for January to October 2009 to just 5.1 seconds, compared with 24.9 seconds per flight for the same period last year.

Whilst reduced traffic has played a notable part, significant improvements in staffing, airspace developments and network management reporting have also been a major contributor.

NATS has out-performed other main European ANSPs in reducing delays with its en-route average delay per flight in 2009 decreasing by 72 per cent (May-Sep 2009 v May-Sep 2008) against a European average decrease of 40 per cent.

Prestwick Control Centre

NATS is looking forward to the official opening of the new Prestwick Centre in early 2010. The Centre, located in Ayrshire, Scotland, will handle approximately half of the UK’s air traffic. The ten-year project will be delivered on time and to budget; it will employ over 500 people, making NATS one of the largest private employers in Ayrshire. After 35 years in service, the Area Control Centre in Manchester will be closed down and over 100 air traffic controllers, engineers and assistants will move from Manchester to Prestwick.

The opening of the Prestwick Centre will complete NATS’ two centre strategy, part of the company’s Long Term Investment Plan to improve efficiency and service delivery.


NATS, the UK’s leading air navigation service provider, and Airbox Aerospace Limited, a British company at the leading edge of aviation navigation, announced the launch of Aware, a new GPS-based moving map device. Aware is designed to tackle the increasing incidence of airspace infringement in the UK, which represents a growing risk to safety.

The Aware project began with the concept of a simple, affordable airspace alerting and positional awareness device that could be regularly updated with the latest airspace information. NATS and Airbox have collaborated on the research and development, concentrating on producing a unit that addresses the main causes of airspace infringement, namely uncertainty of position and lack of awareness of airspace and airspace changes.

It is expected that the device, with a screen size of 4.3 inches, which retails at £149 (including VAT), will become an essential part of every General Aviation pilot’s kit. Each unit comes loaded with ICAO 1:500,000 charts for the UK and the NATS airspace database, the definitive airspace database for the UK

Aeronautical Message Switch

UK (AMS-UK) upgrade, extends its service capabilities

The AMS-UK system, which supports flight operations by transferring flight plan and air traffic flow information, meteorological and flight information services between all aeronautical users, had a major upgrade this month. The upgrade was required to enable other NATS projects such as iTEC and SESAR that will introduce additional connections to external networks and modernise the existing NATS infrastructure.

AMS-UK provides an uninterrupted service to a variety of customers including air traffic control centres, airport flight briefing units, flow management, airlines and foreign switching centres.

Steve James, ATCA panel

Steve James, NATS’ Head of International Relations, hosted a panel discussion on the future of Air Traffic Management at the 54th Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference and exposition in Washington DC. The panel featured the CEOs of four ANSPs examining the strengths and weaknesses of the different operating models of each ANSP, from NATS Public Private Partnership to the military model in Brazil.

Air Traffic by the numbers


Further evidence of the continuing downturn in UK air traffic was published with the announcement of the date flight number two million was reached.

The milestone was recorded on November 22 this year, compared to October 17 in 2008: more than a month later. The date at which the millionth and two millionth flights are reached is considered a barometer for commercial aviation.

Overall movements for November show a six per cent decrease compared to the same month last year, with 159,428 flights against 169,539. The year to date has shown a reduction of 9.8 per cent.

NATS in the Community

Over the past year, NATS has worked closely with the Rowans Hospice, a charity providing hospice care and support to patients with life-limiting illnesses in Portsmouth and south east Hampshire. So far, NATS had distributed over 600 Rowan’s charity bags in the CTC and Whiteley area. NATS has collected around 100 filled charity bags, worth £30-£40 in terms of charity shop sales each, and painted the Rowan’s charity shop in Southsea.

NATS looks forward to continuing to work with the hospice; in the coming months there are plans to secure funding to install Freeview boxes in patients’ rooms and spend time helping out at the distribution centre in Waterlooville, where the filled charity bags are sorted for distribution to the shops

In memoriam: Derek McLauchlan

It was with great sadness that CANSO announced the passing of Derek McLauchlan, one of the Association’s Founding Fathers and its first Secretary General, on 7 October.

Before taking on the role of CANSO Secretary General, Derek was best known as the first Chief Executive Officer of the privatised National Air Traffic Services (NATS) in the UK. He oversaw the creation of NATS as a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA with a turnover of £500M per year and 5,100 staff. During his time at NATS, Derek was also a Member of the Board of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Derek was an accomplished professional who enjoyed a distinguished aviation career. He was instrumental in establishing CANSO in 1997 and served on a part-time basis as the Association’s first Secretary General, a post he held for three years. During this time Derek recruited 29 Full Members and 13 Associate Members, and CANSO gained worldwide industry recognition as the voice of ATM.


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