NATS wants to work with GA

Pilot - - AIRMAIL -

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)

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