Scottish airspace, crucial to flights between northern Europe and North America as well as local air traffic, will be managed by the old Prestwick air traffic control centre (ATCC) for at least six more years, says the UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS). A repeatedly delayed scheme to build a new centre has now been approved by the UK Government.

In an effort to maintain the ATCC longer than planned, NATS is to spend £4.8 million ($7.6 million) upgrading the centre. The three elements to the improvements involve a new radar data processing and display unit, to be in place by early next year; reorganisation of the operations room to allow Scottish airspace restructuring into 15 sectors from the current 12 between now and early 2002; and renewal of the voice communications system linking workstations and other ATCCs.

The decision to upgrade was revealed as NATS announced the government has cleared it to launch the New Scottish Centre (NSC) project, and to sign a contract with Lockheed Martin to adapt for NSC use the air traffic management systems being tested for the delayed Swanwick en route ATCC in southern England, which is to open in the winter of 2002/3.

NATS chief executive Bill Semple has welcomed the go-ahead after "years of uncertainty", and has announced "a provisional operational date for NSC of winter 2006/7". But he warns that much work needs to be done before that date can be confirmed.

Source: Flight International