David Learmount/LONDON

The UK's AIR traffic control (ATC) system is to undergo a Government-ordered safety audit following a parliamentary committee's probe into the service (Flight International, 20-26 May).

National Air Traffic Services (NATS)chief Bill Semple has welcomed the audit, calling it a "belt and braces exercise" and stated his confidence that the system's safety will be confirmed.

The audit will address directly two of the four safety issues raised in the committee's April report into UK ATC, which posed questions including:

whether increasing air traffic is overloading equipment and personnel capacity at the London terminal and area control centre (LATCC); whether the software for the much-delayed New En Route Centre (NERC) at Swanwick can be made to work or should be abandoned in preference for simpler programmes.

On the first point, the Government says that safety does not appear to have been compromised, but the audit is to be commissioned "to allay any public concern over safety". On the second point, it says that software acceptance tests have been completed successfully since the committee reported, but that "-in order that there should be no room for doubt", the audit would encompass the NERC's capability.

The committee's two other calls - to examine whether the yet-to-be-built Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre should use the same software as LATCC, and to check NATS' traffic forecasts for accuracy - were rejected because the Government says it is satisfied with evidence that there are no safety issues involved which have not been addressed.

Meanwhile, Semple says that the planned "winter 1999/2000" date set for the NERC to come on line is looking "progressively more challenging" and that it is likely to slip to the following November-March period.

Source: Flight International