The UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is pushing on with the implementation of the aeronautical telecommunications network (ATN), clearing the way for the debut of the Future Air Navigation System (FANS) on North Atlantic routes.

An upgrade of the Oceanic Control Centre at Prestwick, Scotland, being planned by NATS, will allow FANS-equipped aircraft to take advantage of reduced horizontal separations, raising capacity on "optimum" routeings. The centre would be the first in the world to use the ATN concept, regarded as one of the key building blocks for the eventual worldwide implementation of full-blown FANS.

The move comes despite scepticism among airlines over the business case for equipping aircraft with FANS for transatlantic operations. Although carriers have reported significant gains from the implementation of FANS on Pacific flights, the economics have been helped by the length of the routes, which gives potential for greater fuel savings, and also by the use of the ARINC622 communications standard, instead of the more sophisticated ATN.

Capacity issues on the North Atlantic are due to be addressed by the introduction of reduced vertical-separation minima, which will begin to be phased in from May.

Information-technology-services company EDS is expected to be awarded a ten-year contract, worth around £50 million ($83 million) to develop the new flight-data-processing system at Prestwick. Known as the Oceanic Area Control Centre, Flight Data Processing System 2 (OACC FDPS2), the additional hardware will be housed in a new building adjoining the existing centre. Under the terms of the UK Government's private-finance initiative, EDS' revenues will be based on the volume of traffic which the centre handles. The OACC FDPS2 is due to become operational in January 2000.

EDS claims that the processing system will be "the most advanced of its kind in the world", capable of handling expected annual traffic increases of 4%. Stephen Vaughan, director of the transport division at EDS, says that the system will be, "-the first to make a full implementation of the ATN and FANS concepts".

Vaughan adds that the upgrade should expand capacity on the most efficient routings between Europe and the USA, because, "-the most preferred routes are in a remarkably small corridor". Derek McLauchlan, NATS chief executive, says that the OACC FDPS2 will "-increase airspace capacity, enhance efficiency and maintain the highest levels of safety".

Source: Flight International