NATS and London City airport are reporting satisfactory results and no setbacks with the airfield’s Digital Air Traffic Control Tower, which in the Spring of 2021 was the first to be launched at a main UK commercial airport. Since then, air traffic control at City is provided by a digital system that relies on fourteen high-definition cameras and sensors mounted on a mast at the airport, and which provide a 360° view of the aerodrome. Data and images are relayed through super-fast fibre connections to a control room in NATS’ air traffic control centre in Swanwick, 108 miles away. City’s Air Traffic Controllers have been using the gradual pick up in traffic to build resilience and familiarity with systems and operating procedures.
While the backdrop to the announcement of the project a year ago was one of uncertainty, with significant travel restrictions in place, the slow start helped NATS to progressively build up operating capacity.
Speaking of his experiences over the past year, Lawrie McCurrach, NATS Watch Manager at London City said: “One of the challenges was how little traffic there was due to Covid. However, the lower traffic levels helped us get to grips with the new technology and to get familiar with the new infrastructure at the airport, which includes a full-length taxiway so there is no more back tracking up the runway. There are also extra stands for the aircraft to park in, so we basically no longer control the same airport that we did before when we were based in the physical tower.”
City is experiencing a busy summer, with connections to thirty-five destinations around the UK and Europe. The airport recently recorded highs of over eleven thousand passengers per day with 180 daily rotations.