The UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) has presented staff and airlines with a list of six options for completing the delayed New En Route Control Centre (NERC) at Swanwick.

The £350 million ($585 million) programme is one year behind schedule and could slip to as late as November 2000, depending on which option is adopted.

NATS chief executive Bill Semple is expected to present the favoured option to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority board later this month.

The project has been dogged by software problems which contractor Lockheed Martin has been struggling to overcome. NATS is under increasing pressure to come up with a plan for the completion of the NERC ahead of an investigation into the UK's air-traffic-control (ATC) situation by a parliamentary transport committee, which starts in November.


The six options are:

- commissioning the centre in a limited form, for example by introducing military ATC operations with a restricted civil service;

- adopting a phased approach, with the first phase covering five ATC centres, rather than 28;

- transferring operations, but continuing to use old procedures;

- allowing the NERC to be implemented at the present pace, leading to a November 2000 commissioning date;

- accelerating the project to achieve an unspecified earlier date;

- compressing the programme and commissioning the entire system simultaneously, allowing a November 1999 start-up.

Semple told the meetings that NATS favours the option of compressing the programme - although this may change following the consultation process.

Training is a key issue in meeting the 1999 deadline, say sources. Lockheed Martin plans to hand over the training unit at the NERC on 30 November. A further complication is that Brussels-based Eurocontrol has been recruiting among NATS controllers, raising fears that UK key staff will go.

Source: Flight International