Heathrow and Gatwick are likely to suffer from delays with (NATS) National Air Traffic Services going digital from the current paper strips system that relies on pen and paper to a new digital system called EXCDS at their London Terminal Control Centre.

Air Traffic Controllers in National Air Traffic Services Terminal Control centre in Hampshire currently use paper strips to keep track of aircraft over our skies including altitude, flight speed and destination. This enables the aircraft to be safely separated.

However, with increasing demand for air traffic, National Air Traffic Services have decided it is time to put down the pen and paper and adopt the new digital system which will provide controllers with automated flight data management while using touch sensitive screens.

In addition to helping prepare for future capacity demands the new EXCDS system will also provide some additional safety benefits by providing controllers with alerts when aircraft deviate from the height they have been instructed to fly at.

National Air Traffic Services paper strips

Why is National Air Traffic Services going digital?

National Air Traffic Services have said “With demand for our airspace growing, it is essential that we modernise the tools and technologies we use to manage airspace in order to increase capacity and ensure safety as traffic increases.”

National Air Traffic Services going digital with new touch screen displays

Which airports will be effected?

National Air Traffic Services have successfully completed two out of five moves from paper to digital and are now about to start on their third move. This will cover the sectors that control Heathrow and Gatwick and the airspace to the south and south east of these airports.

This will be a challenging time for National Air Traffic Services as these sectors cover a very busy area of airspace with two of the United Kingdom’s busiest airports and could have an impact on the travel plans on thousands of passengers.

How long will the flight delays be?

Months of planning have gone into this transition to minimise the impact on the travelling public. However, National Air Traffic Services do expect some delays to flights as they will be reducing the amount of air traffic in these sectors to their allow air traffic controllers time and space to build up confidence using the new digital system in a live environment.

National Air Traffic Services apologise to passengers that are delayed but maintain that many flights will experience no delay.

There will also be some disruption to local communities with flights scheduled earlier in the morning and later at night for the first ten days of the transition. National Air Traffic Services have asked the government permission to extend the normal operational limits for a small number of flights.

National Air Traffic Services going digital more information?

For more information about National Air Traffic Services going digital visit the EXCDS section of the National Air Traffic Services website.