ATM Modernization

Responsibilities in the Skies: A Message from NATS

By S.L. Fuller | April 13, 2017

Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Photo: Textron Aviation.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Photo: Textron Aviation.

The U.K. is heading toward warmer months, and the nation's main air navigation service provider anticipates busier skies. NATS Holdings said most infringements happen in the airspace surrounding Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Southampton, Gatwick and London City airports. NATS has a message for all those who plan to enjoy the warm weather by taking to the airspace:

Every year NATS air traffic controllers see approximately 600 unauthorized entries into controlled airspace, with each causing delays for up to 30 airliners, 5,000 passengers and wasting £50,000 worth of fuel.

Almost every incident, no matter how brief, involves widespread knock-on effects for other pilots and air traffic controllers who must take immediate action to ensure all affected aircraft are kept safe.

According to pilots the five main reasons for infringing are ‘pilot workload,’ ‘misidentification of land features,’ ‘poor or incorrect pre-flight briefing,’ ‘inadequate knowledge of airspace’ and ‘unplanned change in route or altitude’ — but there are a number of practical and low cost initiatives that can minimise the risk for everyone:

  • Ensure controlled airspace is identified in pre-flight planning by using tools such as SkyDemon and Aware from Airbox
  • Turn transponders on and set to mode Charlie (Alt)
  • Use listening squawks to monitor what is going on around you
  • Use an airspace alerting device
  • Make contact with local air traffic control when flying near controlled airspace
  • If in doubt, pilots are urged to utilise the Flight Information Service or contact Distress and Diversion on 121.5 MHz

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