Princess Royal to open new NATS air traffic control centre for Scotland

25 January 2010

More than 130 air traffic controllers and support staff have completed the successful move from Manchester to Ayrshire as the new £180m Prestwick Centre enters full operational service today.

The last stage of the plan to merge the two existing centres was completed this weekend, on time and under budget. It brings to an end 35 years of en route and terminal manoeuvre air traffic control from the centre in Manchester.

Staff at Manchester handled the final aircraft from the old operations room at 3am on Saturday morning before handing over executive control to their colleagues in Scotland.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis applauded the completion of the project.

He said: “Everyone at NATS does a vital job, keeping our busy skies moving and safe.  This new, state-of-the-art centre forms part of the ongoing modernisation of our air traffic control services, and will help NATS to manage UK aviation in a way which is both greener and more efficient. I wish the staff at Prestwick every success for the future.”

The next important diary date is February 5, when HRH the Princess Royal will formally open the new centre, which controls 42 per cent of the annual 2.2m flights in the UK’s controlled airspace.

NATS Chief Executive Paul Barron said: “Many people have worked very hard over the course of this project to ensure everything is delivered on time, under budget and with minimum disruption to the service we provide to the airlines.

“We have set great store by a transition of this size which we brought in without affecting our 24-hour, 365-day operation, on which the UK depends.  It gives us a strong platform to implement the new technologies we are developing to offer more capacity, reduce emissions, increase safety and to keep NATS at the forefront of air traffic control innovation.”

Controllers managing Oceanic airspace, Scottish airspace and military airspace have already made a seamless switch to their new home from the old operations rooms in their former headquarters nearby.

The transition is the culmination of a ten-year strategy to manage the UK’s controlled airspace from two centres instead of four. Prestwick, near Glasgow, and Swanwick, in Hampshire, are now in charge of the UK’s controlled airspace after the closure of the Manchester centre and, three years ago, the centre at West Drayton near Heathrow. Both new centres will enable greater efficiencies and the roll-out of new technology and air traffic control systems.

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