Partners bid to grab early lead in network-centric race

UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and its Spanish counterpart AENA are to become the world’s first air navigation service providers (ANSP) to set up a joint venture company to develop a next-generation air traffic management system.

The ultimate product will be a fully network-centric operating system that integrates airport ground, tower and approach air traffic control with area control centres. NATS and AENA hope the move will place them at the forefront of ATM consolidation in Europe as the European Single Sky is progressively implemented.

NATS chief executive Paul Barron has signed a memorandum of co-operation with AENA to develop the system, which will be based on the SACTA software already being used in Spain.

The basic version 3.4 of SACTA that NATS says originally “impressed” it is the one that is now in service in Spain. The SACTA 3.5 upgrade will be introduced in AENA airspace next year, and the first result of the joint venture work, version 3.6, will go into service with NATS at its new Prestwick area control centre (ACC) when it becomes operational in 2009.

A further advance, SACTA 4.2, will re-equip NATS’ Swanwick ACC for operation in 2012. This will be the fully network-centric version, and NATS will jointly own the intellectual property rights for it with AENA. SACTA 4.2 will also host a new flight data processing system, says NATS. Contracts are expected to be finalised “in the autumn”, says NATS.

NATS says the main purpose of the SACTA joint venture is to upgrade systems, but acknowledges the commercial potential. Barron says: “Our vision is for NATS to be the heart of a collaborative venture driving change in Europe.”


Source: Flight International