London flight delay warning on EXCDS upgrade

UK air traffic control provider NATS is warning of possible flights delays and increased noise in the London area as its controllers transition from paper based flight progress strips with an electronic system.
From April 4, the London Terminal Control Centre will spend three weeks introducing EXCDS in a bid to modernise UK airspace, a move which could reduce the amount of air traffic in the sector by 20 per cent for the first ten days to allow controllers to learn the new system, followed by a 10 per cent reduction for the remaining period.
It has also requested government permission to start flights earlier in the morning and run them later at night during the first ten days, if necessary.
The new system has already been rolled out for NATS’ northern sector, which covers flights at Heathrow, Luton Stansted and London City to and from the north. The London upgrade will cover services at Heathrow, Gatwick and the airspace to the south and south-east.
While NATS anticipates only slight delays during the transition, it warns that some services might experience a larger impact.
Commenting on the transition from paper strips to a new electronic tool called EXCDS, Pete Dawson, general manager at London Terminal Control, said moving to a digital tool was a crucial step in preparing for future traffic levels and was part of efforts to modernise UK airspace.
“We do expect some flights to experience delays. This is because we will be reducing the amount of air traffic in the transitioning sectors to give controllers more space to build up their confidence using the new tool in the live environment.
“We also know there will be some impact on the communities around Heathrow and Gatwick who may hear flights earlier in the morning or later at night during the first ten days of the transition. We’ve asked the Government for some flexibility on the usual limits so that we can land a small number of flights slightly earlier and slightly later than usual.  We will do all we can to avoid this but we thank residents close to these airports for their understanding while we make this important change.
“This is a challenging project and we’ll be doing everything we can in the next few days to, first and foremost, keep everyone safe and to keep the traffic moving as efficiently as we can.”
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