News Article | October 26, 2015
A SERIES OF DELAYS to flights from Scotland's airports has been blamed on the air traffic control system that oversees the airy comings and goings. The problems, or at least the possibility of them, were expected by National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the outfit responsible for the smooth passage of air traffic. NATS advised passengers to check the status of flights from early this morning, and has posted reasonably regular Twitter updates about the system's status. NATS admitted early on to a technical problem, warning that travellers should be getting bad vibes about delays. "As a result of a technical issue overnight at the Scottish Air Traffic Control centre at Prestwick some impact on flights is expected this morning, but the situation is improving," the organisation said at 6.45am. "The cause has been identified and is currently being resolved. Every possible action is being taken to assist airlines to minimise disruption. "We apologise for the inconvenience people may be experiencing and will update with further details as soon as possible. Passengers are advised to contact their airline to confirm the status of their flight." Frustrated flyers were advised two hours later that problems were persisting, but that a source had been found. "We have had a technical problem overnight with interference on some radio frequencies that we use to speak to aircraft," NATS explained. The most recent announcement, from 10.45am, continues the apologetic sentiments, and sees NATS adding that it is currently catching up with a flight backlog. This will be bad news for the shops and eateries in the airports, but good news for impatient passengers. "The situation is continuing to improve and delays are reducing. However, we recognise there are currently knock-on delays as a result of airspace capacity restrictions in place earlier in the day," NATS said. "We currently expect to meet demand for the number of flights planned for the rest of the day without creating any additional delay. We are also doing everything we can to safeguard the evening rush hour." µ
News Article | November 18, 2014
Aviation industry experts at NATS have created an awesome time-lapse visualization of Transatlantic air traffic over a period of 24 hours, condensing all the flights during a single day in August 2013 into a 2-minute video. FROM EARLIER: Amazing Microsoft tech will help you make the gorgeous time-lapse videos you’ve always dreamed of “Every day between two and three thousand aircraft fly across the North Atlantic, with the U.K. – and NATS – acting as the gateway to Europe,” the company wrote on its blog. “Up to 80% of all Oceanic traffic passes through the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area (OCA), which is airspace controlled by the United Kingdom. With this in mind, we created a data visualisation showing a day of traffic from August last year and the oceanic airspace structures that help to make it all work.” NATS further said that on a typical summer day, it handles some 1,400 flights across the North East Atlantic, covering 700,000 square miles of sky. The full time-lapse video, showing 2,524 flights from that August day, follows below. More details about NATS air travel operations are available at the source link.
News Article | March 12, 2014
This stunning video shows all the flights that cross Europe on a typical summer day. Beautifully animated, it really provides a great insight into the intensity of modern air travel. It was created by NATS, one of the UK's air traffic control providers. Paul Beauchamp, from NATS, explains how it was made: It's an amalgamation of two data sources – UK radar data from 21 June and European flight plan information from 28 July – and it clearly highlights the structure of airspace across the continent. A few highlights include the North Atlantic tracks that connect Europe with North America, the airways that run up the spine of the UK, the holding stacks at London's capacity stretched airports and the military manoeuvres off Anglesey in Wales. All told, it's a mesmerizing display of data which I could sit and watch all day long. [NATS via Digg]
News Article | November 17, 2014
Every day, around 6,000 flights operate in UK airspace. In this visualisation by NATS, one of the UK's air traffic control providers, you can see them all in intricate detail. It's mesmerizing The organization has put together similar visualizations in the past, but this one takes a closer look at some intriguing features of UK airspace—like the holding stacks at Heathrow, the Aberdeen helicopter routes out to oil platforms, and even the military danger zones. Arguably, even the simple visualization of flight flow into and out of the country is interesting—especially the surge of transatlantic flights that hit UK shores first thing in the morning. It's like a coordinated military attack of Northern American business people headed to show the English what for. Or something. [NATS]
News Article | February 23, 2015
When my son was 4, he wore a superhero cape. All of the time. I vividly remember a trip to Home Depot when he had dressed himself in shorts and a shirt, cowboy boots, swim goggles, gardening gloves, and the cape. Even though he attracted plenty of stares, he walked through the store very sure of himself and his wardrobe choice. Many of us outgrow our childhood ideals, but why is it we also often leave behind the sense of confidence that accompanied them? Self-doubt is common—especially in women—and for many the feeling remains constant. A survey of British managers done by the Institute of Leadership and Management in the United Kingdom found that 50% of female respondents and 31% of male respondents don’t feel confident about their job performance and careers. "We’re all born with the capacity to be our best selves—to be who we really are," says Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. "Then we hear the messages that exist in our fear-based society, and we get beaten down. Being confident means peeling away the doubt, fear, and worry, and getting back to our core. Confident people have learned how to get back to their pure selves." Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, coauthors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, say confidence isn’t just an attitude: "We spent a long time trying to define confidence because we felt that it would be easier to grow it if we really knew what is was," they write in their book. "In the end we came to this conclusion: Confidence is life’s enabler—it is the quality that turns thoughts into action." Becoming confident takes practice, calculated risk-taking, and changes in the way you think, say Kay, Shipman, and Sincero. Here are six habits confident people share: Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure, say Kay and Shipman. Confident people start small and continue to take action until they become more comfortable with the risk. "Nerves are normal—everyone has them," write Kay and Shipman. "The difference between a confident person and an unconfident person is simply that the confident person acts on their ambitions and desires and doesn’t let fear of failure stop them." Confident people are not immune to failure; instead of letting it stop them, they view it as an information-gathering session. "It’s a notch in their belt and proof that they’ve started moving in the direction they want to go," says Sincero. "Confident people thank the experience for the lesson, and then they course-correct." It’s not the strongest species that survives, say Kay and Shipman, it’s the one that’s most adaptable. Sincero says confident people don’t speak badly about themselves. Instead, they question their self-doubts. "Instead of believing something is 100% true—such as feeling like a loser—they realize that they bought into something that’s not certain and they attach feelings to new belief," she says. Kay and Shipman call that getting rid of NATS (negative automatic thoughts): "Women are particularly prone to NATS. We think we make one tiny mistake and we dwell on it for hours and hours … and it kills our confidence," they write. To get rid of NATS, the coauthors suggest reminding yourself of three good things you did for every negative thought you have. Eventually this technique will help you eliminate the tendency to think badly about yourself. Instead of feeling like a victim of their circumstances, confident people take ownership of their situation and do something about it, says Sincero. "They don’t blame their parents or others, they take responsibility and change the things that are getting in the way of their goals," she says. Sincero says confident people read books, take classes, practice meditation, and find coaches and mentors who have done the things they want to do. "If you’re confident then you don’t feel weird about showing your vulnerability and opening yourself up to learning from somebody else," she says. "Insecure people stay where they are because they’re afraid of admitting their weaknesses." Sitting up straight gives you a short-term confidence boost, say Kay and Shipman. The coauthors suggest keeping your abs in and chin up, which they call "astonishingly simple yet woefully infrequent." Also try nodding your head: "You feel more confident as you talk when you do it—and you’re sending a subconscious signal that makes others agree with you," they write.
News Article | December 12, 2014
Computer failure at an air traffic control center in London caused the city's airspace to become restricted this afternoon, leading to "potentially severe" flight delays at Heathrow. The air traffic controllers would only confirm that there had been a "technical problem" that it mobilized a team of engineers to address. About an hour after confirming the incident, the systems were restored. "We apologize for any delays and the inconvenience this may have caused," the controller, NATS, says in a statement. The air space remains open, but flights aren't taking off Airspace around the city was briefly closed, but NATS has since revised that decision and is now calling the air space open with restricted traffic volumes. That appears to mean that flights already nearby are clear to land, but that none are able to take off. Heathrow confirmed that it has no scheduled departures or landings because of the incident, thus leading to delays for its fliers. You can see the current state of the airspace around Heathrow update live over at its website. Following the restoration of its systems, NATS says that it's working to return to normal operations, though it did not provide a timeframe. The Wall Street Journal reports that the air traffic control center, located in Swanwick, went offline after a power outage, and that the disruption may last until 7PM local time. It's unclear if the disruption will lift sooner now that the computers are back online, but flights are already being delayed because of the outage. That's a big issue for fliers at Heathrow, which is among the busiest international airports — and one that wants to grow even bigger. Amid the outage, Heathrow said that some flights were seeing "severe disruption."
News Article | December 12, 2014
Update 5:08pm UK time: Air traffic controller NATS says its technical problems have been fixed, but flight delays caused by the glitch are expected to cause severe disruption to flights in and out of London. Airlines are advising travellers to check the status of their flight online. Our original story follows. Airspace over London has been restricted by safety regulators, following a "technical failure." The restriction of airspace over the UK's capital will cause potentially severe flight delays, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation has warned. In a brief statement on its website, the regulator said, "There has been a technical failure at London ACC. Engineers are working on the problem and more information will be given when available. Only already airborne traffic will be accepted." It was initially reported that London airspace had been closed entirely, however UK-based National Air Traffic Control (NATS) clarified, "UK airspace has not been closed, but airspace capacity has been restricted in order to manage the situation. We apologise for any delays and our incident response team has been mobilised." The airspace restriction -- caused by a technical problem at Swanwick air traffic control centre -- is likely to cause severe disruption to those due to travel in or out of London, with scheduled flights now backing up in the wake of the computer glitch, and airlines telling customers to prepare for delays. Heathrow airport, which is the UK's busiest airport, handled an average of 1,286 flights per day in 2013, while a whopping 4.4 million passengers travelled through London's second-biggest airport, Gatwick, in August 2014. While knock-on delays due to the computer failure may last well into the night, NATS confirmed at 4:21pm UK time that it was "in the process of returning to normal operations", having fixed the computer glitch. In terms of handling delays, analysts speaking to BBC News have suggested that long-distance flights are likely to take priority over shorter, domestic journeys.
News Article | December 12, 2014
Passengers are facing delays after a computer failure which caused problems for flights in and out of London for a period this afternoon. Air traffic control body NATS said in a statement: "NATS can confirm that a technical problem has been reported at Swanwick air traffic control centre. We apologise for any delays and our incident response team has been mobilised. Every possible action is being taken to assist in resolving the situation and to confirm the details." But it added in a tweet that London's airspace is not entirely closed. European air traffic control body Eurocontrol said there has been a failure of the "flight data computer server" in London, and that "Only already airborne traffic will be accepted." Heathrow Airport confirmed in a tweet: " Flights are currently experiencing delays due to a power outage at NATS control centre affecting UK airspace." Gatwick also confirmed in a tweet: "Air Traffic Control is currently experiencing computer issues affecting flight departures at all London Airports." Update: At 4.15pm NATS said that "following a technical failure at Swanwick, the system has been restored and we are in the process of returning to normal operations." Update 4.30pm: NATS now says the system has been restored. "However, it will take time for operations across the UK to recover so passengers should contact their airline for the status of their flight."
News Article | February 11, 2015
For just shy of an hour on a relatively quiet Friday afternoon, Britain's airspace fell into turmoil. The air traffic system had crashed. Dozens of planes were circling overhead, and hundreds of aircraft were grounded at their gates. Tens of thousands of passengers were waiting patiently for news. The problem with the air traffic system is (like you would expect on any other mode of transport) the smallest of problems can cause significant delays. In the skies, that can lead to days of backlogs and other issues. It would take about a week for Britain's major airline hubs to get back up to full-speed. On Monday, the UK Civil Aviation Authority published an interim report into the failure that led to the collapse of the British skies on December 12. Though a full and thorough report is expected later in mid-May, the root cause of the issue was almost entirely down to the faulty software. NATS, the aerospace firm that operates the UK's air traffic, suffered its worst public relations day. The firm's chief executive Richard Deakin was quick to quell fears on BBC News that afternoon. "The problem was when we had additional terminals coming into use, we had a software problem that we haven't seen before," he explained, "which resulted in the computer that looks after flight plans effectively going offline." "The good news is that everything came back 45 minutes later," he confirmed. Deakin said the "backup plan went into action," and the skies were "kept safe." But the stark admission came when he explained that, out of the 50 different systems at its main operations center running four million lines of code in Swanwick, there was one single line of that code to blame. Claiming the problem had been "rectified," he said the problem will not reoccur. Here's what the Civil Aviation Authority's interim report said: The flight plans used by an aircraft's pilots are routed to a "system flight server," which has a shared resource limit to prevent its overloading. The maximum so-called "atomic function," which ensures the right flight plans are sent to the right place, was defined in two places with different values. One of the controllers pushed the "select sectors" button, which puts the workstation into "watching mode" -- essentially, allowing one workstation to view what's being displayed on another workstation. When this happened, the primary system flight server thought it had more active atomic functions than the hard-coded maximum capacity. In such an event, the system flight server is designed to shut down to prevent the risk of supplying wrong data to a controller's workstation. (Nobody wants two planes to go off-course or worse, collide in mid-air or crash into the ground.) The backup system flight server that was running the same code kicked into action, but the controller put the workstation back in "watching mode," triggering the same error. The report said for "the first time in the history" of the system flight server, both the active and backup systems failed at the same time. That single line of code, Deakin said, was to blame. He confirmed it had been present in the systems since the 1990s. Deakin confirmed the company is "investing a huge amount" in new technology to bring the systems up to speed with its European counterparts. "Over the next five-years, we're going to be moving towards internet-based systems which are very modern, and much more resilient than the systems we currently use," he explained.
News Article | July 22, 2015
LONDON — If you type "London" and "drone" into YouTube you'll find hundreds of videos uploaded by drone enthusiasts, from drone selfies to flyovers of the city's green spaces, but from Wednesday users have a new code to follow, which explains in simple language how to fly within the law. The "Dronecode," launched by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), NATS, the UK's global air traffic management company, and the pilots union BALPA, coincides with Drone Safety Day and introduces simple rules people must follow to avoid prosecution. The code says drone operators must always have the drone they're flying in their line of sight and they must not fly it any higher than 400 feet (121.92 metres). It also says drones should never be flown near aircraft, helicopters, airports or airfields. If you have a camera on your drone you can't fly it within 164 feet (50 metres) of people, vehicles, buildings or structures, according to the code. It also says you can't fly over "congested areas" or "large gatherings" such as concerts or sports events. The CAA said in a statement that "recklessly endangering" an aircraft in flight is a criminal offence and that anyone convicted of it faces a custodial sentence. Last year, a drone pilot was fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £3,500 after being prosecuted by the CAA for flying a drone or unmanned aerial vehicle within 50 metres of the Jubilee Bridge on the Walney channel and flying over the BAE System nuclear submarine-testing facility. In another case, a 41-year-old man was arrested for flying a drone over a football stadium during the Manchester City's home game with Tottenham Hotspur. There have been a number of serious incidents involving drones and commercial airlines at airports that prompted this new code. Last month, the Express reported details of an incident from March when a small drone flew within 50 feet (15 metres) of an Airbus A320 as it made its final descent into Heathrow. The pilot was concerned about how close it was to the aircraft and worried for the safety of the plane. It was just one of six serious incidents involving drones, with others recorded at Norwich, Southend and Leeds Bradford airports. “We want to embrace and enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology, but we must ensure that this is done safely, with all airspace users in mind," CAA's Director of Policy Tim Johnson said in a statement launching the new code. “Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world - a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders, light aircraft and now drones." Along with the new code, the CAA also launched more online resources for people who fly drones in UK airspace. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.