NATS operations resilience must improve: CAA

The British aviation authority has told NATS that it must do better in some areas following allegations that it breached its air traffic services licence and transport legislation.

The UK CAA said that both Ryanair and London Stansted Airport alleged that NATS en route business (NERL) had failed to meet demand for airline services by failing to provide adequate resources to manage performance in the London Terminal Manoeuvring Area (LTMA) and had discriminated against traffic landing at London Stansted airport.

Using its investigatory powers for the first time under the Transport Act 2000, the UK CAA concluded that while no compliance breach has been found, it had identified areas for improvement.

It said it is now seeking a number of improvements to NERL’s business practices, which include improving the resilience of its operations and contingency planning, adding that it will also increase its own oversight of NERL to address these resilience issues.

Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA, said: “This is the first time that the CAA has used its investigatory powers under the Transport Act 2000 and highlights the potential seriousness of the complaint raised. In this instance, our investigation has found no compliance breach, however improvements to operational resilience are key to ensuring service delivery levels are maintained in our increasingly busy airspace.”

A NATS spokesperson tells Air Traffic Management: “We welcome the CAA’s confirmation that NATS has fulfilled the requirements of its licence and the Transport Act 2000. This followed a lengthy investigation by the CAA after a complaint was made nearly a year ago.

“The safe air traffic control service that we provide to 2.5 million flights per year is recognised by our customers as one of the best and most resilient anywhere in the world.

“We have a formal programme of consultation with our customers; their priorities inform our investment programme and our service, which are part of our regulatory regime approved by the CAA, who also specify the traffic forecasts that form the basis of our planning.

“We continually seek to refine our operation particularly in light of much faster than forecast traffic growth across the South East of the UK and resilience is in sharp focus as traffic volumes increase in already busy airspace. Consequently, we have already taken a number of actions referred to in the CAA’s report.

“Our aim is always to provide a safe and efficient service to all of our customers. We welcome final closure of this investigation so that we can apply all of our resources to ensuring that the travelling public is best served at the busiest time of the year for air travel.”

The spokesman said it was worth noting that only 0.5 per cent of total Ryanair flights arriving to/departing from Stansted incurred a delay due to ATC resourcing, equivalent to 268 flights out of approximately 50,000 flights over a six month period.


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