The £180M Prestick air traffic control centre entered full operation today, with 130 staff transferring from Manchester.
British airspace is now controlled from two centres - Swanwick near Sounthampton, and Prestick which will control 42% of the traffic.
The transfer of 130 staff from Manchester ends 35 years of flight control from Manchester. The new centre has opened on time and some £9M under budget.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: “Everyone at NATS does a vital job, keeping our busy skies moving and safe. This new, state-of-the-art centre forms part of the ongoing modernisation of our air traffic control services, and will help NATS to manage UK aviation in a way which is both greener and more efficient. I wish the staff at Prestwick every success for the future.”
Measures brought in following the 9/11 attacks in the US meant the centre has been designed to continue operating in the most difficult circumstances.
According to operations manager Franco Valente, the building is regarded as ‘high integrity’. “We have two independent feeds from the national grid in case power from one is interrupted. We have 110t of batteries, enough to operate the building for two hours.
“This capability to run the bulding for two hours is exteremely important. , and the main floor is rated to withstand fire for two hours. This is enough time to clear the skies safely,” he said.
NATS Chief Executive Paul Barron said: “Many people have worked very hard over the course of this project to ensure everything is delivered on time, under budget and with minimum disruption to the service we provide to the airlines.
“We have set great store by a transition of this size which we brought in without affecting our 24-hour, 365-day operation, on which the UK depends. It gives us a strong platform to implement the new technologies we are developing to offer more capacity, reduce emissions, increase safety and to keep NATS at the forefront of air traffic control innovation.”
Controllers managing Oceanic airspace, Scottish airspace and military airspace have already made a seamless switch to their new home from the old operations rooms in their former headquarters nearby.
The transition is the culmination of a ten-year strategy to manage the UK’s controlled airspace from two centres instead of four. Prestwick, near Glasgow, and Swanwick, in Hampshire, are now in charge of the UK’s controlled airspace after the closure of the Manchester centre and, three years ago, the centre at West Drayton near Heathrow. Both new centres will enable greater efficiencies and the roll-out of new technology and air traffic control systems.
Consultant and architect: Jacobs
Contractor: Laing O’Rourke