NATS wants to work with GA
NATS has always looked to work closely with the GA community so it’s disappointing to read about David Vale’s (‘Star Letter’ in the August 2018 issue) perceptions of the service in the UK.
We would like to make a few points in response:
Aviation operations can be different in continental Europe, the USA and elsewhere around the world. Under the umbrella of ICAO, aviation has evolved differently in each nation, with different procedures, attitudes and importantly, funding models.
Unlike elsewhere, the UK does not have a single nationalised ANSP and there is currently no funding for the provision of surveillance based FIS across the entire country. While NATS maintains a keen interest, we are not responsible for UK policy; this has always been a matter for Government.
Speaking for the Solent Radar operation, this takes place within a complex piece of airspace, mixing commercial air transport flights into two international airports with IFR and VFR transits, and traffic utilising numerous local airfields both inside and outside controlled airspace. Our airspace is busy and getting busier, but we will always look to offer a service to or transit for GA pilots when we can.
During June 2018, Solent provided services outside of controlled airspace to 2,658 aircraft (a daily average of 88), purely in the interests of aviation safety; while in the same month we also accommodated 1,049 airspace transits. Sadly, there were also seventeen airspace infringements in June, two of which resulted in a loss of separation with IFR traffic,
something that continues to present a significant safety issue.
We have a long history of engaging with the GA community in order to explain the operation of the Solent airspace. The area is well known for many different bases of controlled airspace and varied shapes, the result of compromises to best accommodate all airspace users whilst guaranteeing the safety of the travelling public. We hold regular, very well-attended ‘open days’, the next of which is scheduled for October, and I’d encourage David to come along to better understand the constraints that we work under.
Safety will always be our highest priority – and that extends to all airspace users. Ross Macdonald, General Manager, Southampton Airport, Air Traffic Services (NATS)