NATS visualisation gives behind-the-scenes look at air traffic control

16 Nov 2019 by Jenni Reid
NATS ATC visualisation

NATS, the UK’s main air navigation service provider, has released an interactive visualisation showing how air traffic controllers get planes from A to B.

It is part of a web series aiming to illustrate how 8,000 flights a day move through UK airspace. 

The latest post, called Plane Talking, puts you in ATC at Heathrow at 0654 ready to send a British Airways A320 on its way to Manchester.

“Delivery good morning, Shuttle 2 Lima, 320 on five-zero-one with PDC, new QNH one-zero-three-two is copied, fully ready,” the pilot tells you.

You’ll then see how the crew will request to push back, be pushed onto the taxiway by a tug vehicle, taxi to various holding points, queue for the runway and be cleared for takeoff to the north of England.

The visualisation then takes you on the 150-nautical-mile journey, and shows how factors like altitude and flight path are decided.

By the time the flight lands at 0730, 73 messages have been exchanged between the aircraft and nine air traffic controllers.

Try it here.

Over the summer, NATS released a video showing the paths of 8,863 flights in and out of the UK on July 5, the busiest-ever day for its airspace.

In a year it will see around 2.6 million flights, which is predicted to rise to 3.25 million by 2030.

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