Nats unveils European IT strategy

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) has launched an European IT system strategy to help it meet long-term air traffic handling...

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) has launched an European IT system strategy to help it meet long-term air traffic handling targets.

The UK's air traffic control provider is proposing to join a three-nation alliance to develop a joint Flight Data Processing (FDP) system with Germany and Spain. Officials said the system was crucial to developing Nats' capability to handle three million flights a year by the end of the decade.

Nats chief executive Richard Everitt said, "We are committed to a common system for the UK but our vision is for Nats to be at the heart of change in Europe - we believe that our participation in this programme will ensure a truly European solution to future system requirements."

The project is expected to contribute towards the Single European Sky initiative, which aims to simplify Europe's existing network of air traffic systems and improve safety and efficiency. It also builds on Nats' recently announced financial restructuring.

Last month Nats unveiled a £1bn, 10-year investment programme. A key element of the deal is collaboration with European partners on flight data processing.

Nats officials added that the funding would allow Nats to improve its operating efficiency and reduce delays. The initiative also included the creation of a data and communications ring between all Nats sites in the UK, which can be extended into Europe.

The recovery plan was put together following a sharp fall in airline industry revenue following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US, and includes a major financial restructuring of Nats and the injection of £130m of shareholder capital from the government and the British Airports Authority.

Nats has been hit by a series of computer glitches since the launch of the Swanwick air control centre last January.

Last year Computer Weekly revealed that controllers were having difficulty reading computer screens at a £623m air traffic centre have mistaken Glasgow for Cardiff, repeatedly misread the height of aircraft by thousands of feet and sent a plane into the wrong airspace.

The mistakes are detailed in confidential "safety observation reports" filed since systems at the Swanwick centre became operational in January.

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