|Industry||Air travel and airports|
|Headquarters||Whiteley, England, United Kingdom|
|Number of locations||London Area Control Centre at Swanwick, Prestwick and UK airports|
|Area served||UK airspace|
|Key people||Richard Deakin (Chief Executive Officer)|
|Services||Air traffic control of the United Kingdom airspace|
|Owner(s)||UK Government (49%)
The Airline Group (42%)
NATS staff (5%)
|Subsidiaries||NATS En-Route PLC
NATS Services Ltd
NATS Holdings (formerly National Air Traffic Services) is the main air navigation service provider in the United Kingdom. It provides en-route air traffic control services to flights within the UK Flight Information Regions and the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area, and provides air traffic control services to fifteen UK airports and Gibraltar Airport.
The workforce of NATS is mainly made up of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs), Air Traffic Control Engineers (ATCEs), Air Traffic Services Assistants (ATSAs) and Science Technical Analytical and Research Staff (STARs). Administrative and Support staff make up the remainder of the 5,000 or so staff employed by NATS.
NATS' en-route business is regulated and operated under licence from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The terms of the licence require NATS to be capable of meeting on a continuous basis any reasonable level of overall demand. They are charged with permitting access to airspace on the part of all users, whilst making the most efficient overall use of airspace.
The organisation was originally setup as the National Air Traffic Control Services (NATCS) in 1962, bringing together responsibility for the UK's existing military and civil Air Traffic Control services.
The organisation became National Air Traffic Services when responsibility for sponsoring the civil air traffic service component was transferred to the newly formed Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 1972. Prior to this it had no legal existence - all contracts were with the CAA or MoD.
Until its establishment as a separate company, leadership of NATS (the 'Controller') alternated between civil and military, the latter normally a serving Air Marshal. The first Controller was Sir Laurence Sinclair, exceptionally an Air Vice Marshall. NATS staff were drawn from, and paid by, the CAA and the MoD.
 West Drayton
The London Air Traffic Control Centre at RAF West Drayton opened in 1966 and provided ATC services until it closed in 2007, with the move to Swanwick. Scottish air traffic control has been carried out from Atlantic House in Prestwick since 1978. This situation changed with the opening of the Prestwick Centre in 2010, to which all Operational Services were transferred from the old Atlantic House. The Prestwick Centre houses the Domestic, Oceanic and Scottish Military Services and allows for state of the art technology to be introduced in future.
In 1992 it was recognised that as a service provider, NATS should be operated at some distance from its regulator, the CAA. Although debated, it was decided that NATS should not be privatised at that time. NATS was re-organised into a limited company on 1 April 1996 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA. The direct involvement of military officers in the management of NATS ended at this time, although the last military Controller (Air Marshal Sir Thomas Stonor, KCB) had retired in 1991.
 Public-private partnership
In 1998, a controversial public-private partnership was proposed. This was written into the Transport Act 2000 and in 2001 51% of NATS was transferred to the private sector. However due to the decline in air traffic following the September 11, 2001 attacks £130m of additional investment was required, £65m coming each from the UK government and BAA, who received 4% of the company in return.
The current shareholders in NATS are: the UK Government (49%); The Airline Group (42%) which is a consortium of British Airways, Lufthansa, EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic; Heathrow Airport Holdings (4%); and NATS employees (5%).
Richard Deakin has been CEO of NATS since April 2010.
NATS is split into two main service provision companies: NATS En-Route PLC (NERL) and NATS Services Ltd (NSL).
- NERL holds the monopoly of civilian en-route air traffic control over the UK and is regulated by the CAA who, for example, determine the charges NERL can make. NERL is funded by charging airlines for the provision of air traffic services.
- NSL competes for contracts in the free market to provide air traffic control at airports in the UK and overseas, as well as providing engineering, technical and education services in fields related to air traffic control.
 En route
There are two control locations in the UK operated by NERL:
- London Area Control Centre and London Terminal Control Centre at Swanwick in Hampshire control both upper level en-route traffic across England and Wales up to the Scottish border and low-level traffic around London and South East England, including aircraft making approaches to the main London airports.
- The Prestwick Centre, Ayrshire, is home to the Scottish Area Control Centre (including, since January 2010, the former Manchester Area Control Centre), which controls traffic over Scotland, Northern Ireland, and up to FL285 over the northern half of England, and the Prestwick Oceanic Area Control Centre which provides a procedural control service for traffic crossing the North Atlantic via the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area.
NSL provides air traffic services at all Heathrow Airport Holdings airports (previously BAA):
From Aberdeen NSL provides air traffic services on behalf of NERL to offshore helicopters operating primarily from Aberdeen, Shetland (Sumburgh & Scatsta), Humberside, Norwich and North Denes.
It also has contracts with other airports not owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings, including:
- London Gatwick Airport - sold in December 2009 to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP)
- London City Airport
- London Luton Airport
- London Stansted Airport - sold in February 2013 to Manchester Airports Group (MAG)
- Cardiff Airport
- Birmingham Airport
- Bristol Airport
- Gibraltar Airport
- Farnborough Airfield
- Manchester Airport
- Belfast International Airport
- Edinburgh Airport - sold in June 2012 to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP)
NSL has also has won contracts to provide a part of the air traffic control services at certain airports including:
NSL also provides services to the MoD's Military Aviation Authority.
 Association with other organisations
Since the 1940s, the Irish and UK air traffic control service providers have worked effectively together. This was further strengthened in July 2008 when the Irish and UK governments announced that NATS and IAA had jointly introduced the first Functional Airspace Block under the European Commission's Single European Sky initiative.
 Notable incidents
It is important to note that NATS participated in cross table discussions with the CAA, Met Office and the Government in relation to this incident and NATS acts upon the guidance from the regulatory body, the CAA. This body has the ability to categorise flight sectors and effectively close them if a safety concern is present, NATS will then enforce this ruling but will do so in conjunction with and have the full support of the CAA and the Government.
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- "About us". NATS. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- NATS Our Story, NATS Communications, 2006
- "History". NATS. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- Our history, NATS.
- "FAQs". NATS. 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- "NATS and IAA publish three year plan for Functional Airspace Block (FAB)". Atc-network.com. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- National Air Traffic Services - Updates
- BBC News - Iceland volcano: UK flights grounded for second day 16 April 2010
- Official website
- Official NSL Website
- National Audit Office report into the refinancing of NATS following the financial difficulties experienced after 9/11
- Official history
- Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website