- National Air Traffic Services
NATS corporate logo
Type Public-Private Partnership Industry Air travel and airports Predecessor NATCS Founded 1962 Headquarters Whiteley, England, UK Number of locations London Area Control Centre at Swanwick, Prestwick and UK airports Area served UK airspace Key people Richard Deakin Chief Executive Officer Services Air traffic control of the United Kingdom airspace Owner(s) UK airlines (42%), NATS staff (5%), UK airport operator BAA Limited (4%), UK government (49%) Divisions NATS En-Route PLC, NATS Services Ltd Website NATS References: Also known as National Air Traffic Services
NATS Ltd. (formerly National Air Traffic Services Ltd.) is the main air navigation service provider in the United Kingdom. It provides en-route air traffic control services to flights within the UK Flight Information Regions and the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area, and provides air traffic control services to fifteen UK airports and Gibraltar Airport.
The workforce of NATS is mainly made up of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs), Air Traffic Control Engineers (ATCEs) and Air Traffic Services Assistants (ATSAs). Administrative and Support staff make up the remainder of the 5,000 or so staff employed by NATS.
NATS' en-route business is regulated and operated under licence from the Civil Aviation Authority. The terms of the licence require NATS to be capable of meeting on a continuous basis any reasonable level of overall demand. They are charged with permitting access to airspace on the part of all users, whilst making the most efficient overall use of airspace.
The organisation was originally setup as the National Air Traffic Control Services (NATCS) in 1962, bringing together responsibility for the UK's existing military and civil Air Traffic Control services.
The organisation became National Air Traffic Services when responsibility for sponsoring the civil air traffic service component was transferred to the newly formed UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 1972. At this stage it had no legal existence - all contracts were with the CAA or MoD.
Until its establishment as a separate company, leadership of NATS (the 'Controller') alternated between civil and military, the latter normally a serving Air Marshal. The first Controller was Sir Laurence Sinclair, exceptionally an Air Vice Marshall. NATS staff were drawn from, and paid by, the CAA and the MoD.
The London Air Traffic Control Centre at RAF West Drayton opened in 1966. West Drayton continued to provide ATC services until it finally closed in 2007, with the move to Swanwick. Scottish air traffic control has been carried out from Atlantic House in Prestwick since 1978.
Privatisation was first mooted in 1992, and although that debate came and went, it was recognised that as a service provider, NATS should be operated at some distance from its regulator (the CAA), so NATS was re-organised into a Companies Act company on 1 April 1996 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA. The direct involvement of military officers in the management of NATS ended at this time, although the last military Controller (Air Marshal Sir Thomas Stonor, KCB) had retired in 1991.
Ownership structure and management
In 1998, a controversial public-private partnership was proposed. This was written into the Transport Act 2000 and in 2001 51% of NATS was transferred to the private sector. However due to the decline in air traffic following the September 11, 2001 attacks £130m of additional investment was required, £65m coming each from the UK government and BAA, who received 4% of the company in return.
The current shareholders are: the UK government (49%); The Airline Group (42%) which is a consortium of British Airways, BMI, EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic; BAA (4%); and NATS employees (5%).
Richard Deakin has been CEO of NATS since April 2010.
NATS is split into two main service provision companies: NATS En-Route PLC (NERL) and NATS Services Ltd (NSL). NERL holds the monopoly of civilian en-route air traffic control over the UK and is regulated by the CAA who, for example, determine the charges NERL can make. NERL is funded by charging airlines for the provision of air traffic services.
NSL competes for contracts in the free market to provide air traffic control at airports in the UK and overseas, as well as providing engineering, technical and education services in fields related to air traffic control.
There are two control centres in the UK operated by NERL:
- London Area Control Centre and London Terminal Control Centre at Swanwick in Hampshire controls both upper level en-route traffic across England and Wales up to the Scottish border and low-level traffic around London and South East England, including aircraft making approaches to the main London airports.
- The Prestwick Centre, Ayrshire, is home to the Scottish Area Control Centre (including, since January 2010, the former Manchester Area Control Centre), which controls traffic over Scotland, Northern Ireland, and up to FL285 over the northern half of England, and the Prestwick Oceanic Area Control Centre which provides a procedural control service for traffic crossing the North Atlantic via the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area.
NSL provides air traffic services at all BAA Limited airports:
- London Heathrow Airport
- London Stansted Airport
- Southampton Airport
- Aberdeen Airport
- Edinburgh Airport
- Glasgow International Airport
From Aberdeen NSL provides air traffic services on behalf of NERL to offshore helicopters operating primarily from Aberdeen, Shetland (Sumburgh & Scatsta), Humberside, Norwich and North Denes.
It also has contracts with other non-BAA airports including:
- London Gatwick Airport - sold by BAA in December 2009 to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP)
- London City Airport
- London Luton Airport
- Cardiff International Airport
- Birmingham International Airport
- Bristol International Airport
- Gibraltar Airport
- Farnborough Airfield
- Manchester Airport
- Belfast International Airport.
NSL has also has won contracts to provide a part of the air traffic control services at certain airports including:
NSL also provides services to the MoD, via QinetiQ for Air Traffic and Range Air Control Services at a number of UK Ranges, including:
NSL also provides services to the UK Military Aviation Authority
Association with other organisations
NATS is a full member of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation. It is a shareholder in European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP), a company set up to operate the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).
Since the 1940s, the Irish and UK air traffic control service providers have worked effectively together. This was further strengthened in July 2008 when the Irish and UK governments announced that NATS and IAA had jointly introduced the first Functional Airspace Block under the European Commission's Single European Sky initiative.
- ^ http://www.nats.co.uk/about-us/en-route-services/
- ^ http://www.nats.co.uk/about-us/airport-services/
- ^ http://www.nats.co.uk/about-us/
- ^ NATS Our Story, NATS Communications, 2006
- ^ http://www.nats.co.uk/7006/our-history/
- ^ National Air Traffic Services - Updates
- ^ BBC News - Iceland volcano: UK flights grounded for second day 16 April 2010
- ^ Our history, NATS.
- ^ http://www.nats.co.uk/about-us/faqs/
- ^ http://www.atc-network.com/News/29983/NATS-and-IAA-publish-three-year-plan-for-Functional-Airspace-Block--FAB-
- Official website
- Official NSL Website
- National Audit Office report into the refinancing of NATS following the financial difficulties experienced after 9/11
- Official history
Aerospace industry in the United Kingdom CompaniesAD Aerospace · AgustaWestland · Airbus UK · Astrium Satellites (Surrey Satellite Technology) · BAE Systems (BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies · BAE Systems Military Air Solutions · Eurofighter GmbH (33%) · MBDA (37.5%)) · BBA Aviation · Boeing Defence UK · British Airways Engineering · Britten-Norman · Chemring Group · Cobham (Cobham Technical Services) · Defunct aircraft manufacturers · Euravia · GE Aviation Systems (Dowty Rotol) · GFS Projects · GKN · Hants and Sussex Aviation · IRVIN-GQ · Lindstrand Technologies · Lockheed Martin UK · Marshall Aerospace · Martin-Baker · Meggitt · Messier-Dowty · QinetiQ · Reaction Engines · Rolls-Royce · SELEX Galileo · SELEX Sistemi Integrati · Short Brothers · Thales Air Defence · Thales Optronics · Ultra Electronics Government and regulatory
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