UK air navigation service provider NATS' new Prestwick area control centre goes fully operational on 25 January, completing a 10-year programme of modernisation that has cut the number of NATS centres from three to two.

The final move, which took place over the weekend before 25 January, involved the closure of Manchester area control centre and the transfer of the controller and engineering workforce to Prestwick.

UK en-route airspace and oceanic areas are now managed entirely from the area control centres at Swanwick (London control) and Prestwick (Scottish control), as is the terminal airspace around London and Manchester.

Swanwick itself went operational in January 2002, transferring control of English and Welsh en-route airspace from the old London air traffic control centre at West Drayton near Heathrow airport.

The entirely new-built Scottish area control centre has been constructed directly alongside Atlantic House at Prestwick, which housed the old Scottish area operations room.

In the past few months there has been a gradual transition of area functions from the old to the new centre, beginning in October 2009 with the transfer of Shanwick Oceanic control, which manages a large sector of the airspace over the north Atlantic.

The transition of the military ATC function for northern UK airspace took place in November, then Scottish area control transferred in December. The Manchester move has completed the task.

All the transfers were carried out earlier than planned, and the Prestwick Centre project as a whole has been completed below budget.

Source: Flight International