ATN: The Olympic Games will have an impact on air traffic management in the UK. What measures will you undertake in order to maintain efficiency? We know that the London area is a very crowded area. How you will be able to manage traffic during the Olympic Games?
RD: During the Olympic period, the UK’s airspace is going to function differently from normal so we have done a lot of work to modify the airspace design, to change some of our procedures and to develop an integrated approach with the military and to ensure that we have streamlined the management of the additional traffic. With 3,000 extra business flights expected, we’ve been coordinating with about 40 tertiary airports in the South East of England to implement a slot booking system in order to better manage traffic flows.
We have done a huge amount of modelling to look at the arrival and departure patterns for all of these aircraft and optimise their integration into our en-route network operation.
Based upon this modelling and an assessment of additional commercial traffic, we have adjusted our summer staffing plan to ensure we can accommodate the increased demand. We will be busy, but I’m confident that unless we have disruption which is outside of our control - such as a weather or security event- we will be able to deliver a “business as usual” service to our commercial customers as well as seamlessly managing additional traffic to and from the 40 tertiary airports.
ATN: Does this mean that you focus not on Heathrow and Gatwick but to the rest of the airports?
RD: Our challenge is to make the entire airspace network function efficiently, not just Heathrow and Gatwick in isolation. We have taken a holistic approach to addressing this challenge, working with the larger and smaller airfields as well as airlines, business jet operators and private pilots to ensure we are all working collaboratively and cooperatively throughout this busy summer.
ATN: In Athens, during the Olympics they had stopped overflying or taking off from Athens airport for security reasons. Will you continue the current air routes over London throughout the Olympics?
RD: Yes, commercial air traffic procedures will remain as they are unless the Government requests a change to our operation.
ATN: In a recent announcement from NATS you mentioned about 10% reduction in CO2 per flight by 2020. How this will be achievable? How will you be able to arrive to this?
RD: NATS was the first air navigation service provider to commit to carbon reduction targets and in 2015, we will have saved about 4.6% towards that goal of 10%. And, in early 2012, we became the first ANSP to be financially incentivised against our environmental performance. This performance is measured by a tool called 3Di, the 3-Dimensional Inefficiency score, which was developed by NATS to measure both the horizontal and vertical efficiency of flights in our airspace. We are scored against our use of environmentally beneficial procedures such as continuous climb departures, continuous descent approaches, optimised routes, reduced holding times and efficient push-back clearances. This metric enables us to identify areas for improvement and track our progress towards our 10% CO2 reduction goal by 2020. We have already made more than 100 environmentally driven operational and procedural changes in air traffic flows in the Swanwick, Prestwick and Oceanic regions. These have saved an estimated 115,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – a fuel saving worth £22m.
ATN: How important is to be part of SESAR?
RD: SESAR is looking into a lot of key technologies that will be critical to delivering on-going efficiency across Europe. The challenge that we have now is to connect all of that up to make sure that we have interoperable systems across borders, so that’s very much where NATS and our European counterparts are focusing. All ANSPs work continuously to enhance safety and drive efficiency, much of which can be enabled by a coordinated approach across Europe.
ATN: Can you explain the benefits to be a private ANSP?
RD: One of the key things privatisation has meant for NATS is that we can take more an industry-focused approach. In UK the airports are privatised so we have to bid for airports’ business, and have won contracts at 15 of the UK’s busiest airports through competitive tender. I’m very proud that we have been able to offer a commercially competitive service to airport customers and have been successful on the open market. And, I think that the journey that we have been on from public service to a liberalised model has enabled us to improve our standards for performance, value and service delivery.
NATS has recently signed a contract in Spain to operate ATC at 10 airports, and have done a great deal of work in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region as well, so we are certainly looking at more global opportunities for air traffic services.
We engage with stakeholders across the aviation community and that has helped us to keep ourselves at the very forefront of the industry, able to respond quickly to changing demands and integrate new technologies. As a result, we develop innovative solutions to meet current and future airspace needs while keeping costs competitive.