View Full Version : NATS closing airspace

2 six 4
10th Oct 2002, 10:36
I just heard the story that NATS closed the Bristol / Strumble sector for the whole nightshift last night because an ATCO phoned in with toothache.

Presumably that stopped all Cardiff and Bristol flights overnight and hit the trans Atlantics. There was probably an effect on domestic traffic for the first couple of hours.

Don't forget that NATS told the Transport Select Committee that it had an excess of 60 ATCOs for the opening of Swanwick and the Government promised privatisation would bring a new dynamic private sector management.

Seems like both these statements are "economical with the truth." :confused:

10th Oct 2002, 11:19
2 six 4, I can't quite gauge the tone of your thread... are you saying that the controller shouldnt have foned in sick cos he had toothache, and should have sat there all night in pain with your lives in his hands???

Or are you just commenting on the lack of spare staff to cover for sickness on nightshifts? (there are no spares- one person goes sick and sectors have to be closed). Thats the way it is- NATS would rather have spares in the daytime than roster extra staff to nightshifts. Closing sectors during the day when staff go sick causes much more of an impact than closures at night time!

Captain Windsock
10th Oct 2002, 11:48
I think you will find there was no sickness. Just not enough controllers with the correct validations. I believe management were hoping to overcome this problem by bringing in overtimers but nobody volunteered. Why ? because they are trying to do it on the cheap.

NATS idea of good fiscal management is to pay the controller peanuts for overtime thus saving a few hundred quid and pass the burden onto the airlines as they can collectively afford the tens of thousands pounds extra cost of long reroutes and disrupted schedules.

Flap 5
10th Oct 2002, 12:00
Can't see how you could misunderstand the point being made by 2 six 4 atco-matic. It is very clear. There certainly should be spares. In the pilot business we call them 'standby's'. Flights would often not depart without them and airlines have every right to expect ATC to operate in the same way. After all the airlines pay for the ATC cover to be there.

10th Oct 2002, 12:29
Is it just me, or do the airlines put far too much pressure on NATS to cut costs ?

When you have at least a four year lead-in for someone 'off the street' to validation you CANNOT run a system with no 'fat'.

As airlines have become much more business minded over the last twenty years (through privitisation and increased competition) they have put more and more pressure on NATS to cut costs.
I remember doing a course with BA ten years ago and all presentations from management included the phrase '..of course the uk has the highest ATC charges in europe' , yet there was no reference to the price formula coupled with a relatively small amount of (extremely complex)airspace which made this so.

Ryanair's recent press release and letter to the minister for transport about NATS service standards showed the same ignorance of the problems facing NATS when it comes to charging.

The cost of air traffic services to airlines, I'm sure, pales in to insignificance when compared to airspace closures, reduced landing rates,etc and the fuel burn, delays and diversions these cost.

By having a fully functioning ATC system, the airlines can save far more money than they ever spend on route charges.

10th Oct 2002, 12:34
Fair enough F5 we probably should be operating that way. However, the bodies don't exist or aren't specifically qualified. You wouldn't have B737 pilots turning up on standby to fly B747s would you?

When our management told the nation that there was a surplus of 60 ATCOs the statement was only mathematically correct.

Point 4

10th Oct 2002, 13:23
Flap 5, I think you might be a little disingenuous in your comparison to airline standby crews.

If you have enough standby crews in the right place at the right time to cover your entire summer programme, your airline is blowing a lot of money on people sat around doing nothing.

Anyway, I digress, the nice chaps on the other sectors simply gave the BRS and CWL traffic direct to the BRI/CDF and handed them over to the local radar units. It worked so well I might suggest it as a permanent feature! (Save your ire folks, I know it only worked cos' it was the middle of the night).

10th Oct 2002, 16:52
Although both Bristol and Cardiff can see on their Radars out some considerable distance (between 70 and 90 NM at Cardiff)
They are currently only able to offer Radar services out to 40NM.
Does this mean that the Aircraft last night were on procedural services and receiving Flight Information only ,for some distance.

Yes last night was exceptional and no ATCO should ever come into work when unwell. But surely their could have been some overtime cover available. I know overtime is a dirty word at LACC but to have to close airspace , we are supposed to be a world class provider of ATC services, we have settled our pay dispute so what are we coming to at NATS ?

Management and lack of foresight and planning in the past few years are to blame, but do we always have to make things worst by not being flexible under such circumstances. Yes it means we are highlighting the point of our difficulties to the outside world, but those of us at units who have to bid for our Contracts at the airports every 5 years or so are really starting to suffer.

10th Oct 2002, 22:22
Not only was the airspace closed,but there were significant delays through HRN/SFD/LYD/DVR because of the computer upgrade.Normally to avoid these delays we would flightplan via wait for it........BHD,which of course we couldn't do,and any plans routed via BHD were invalid which forced us to route through HRN sector!This on top of BCN FIR down most of the day with some delays in excess of 4hrs.What chance have we got?

11th Oct 2002, 00:36
two points

bus 14

you just agreed with flaps
nats cannot overcrew for nights without(staff) or wasting more cash
if validations not there the sector or aircraft cannot function

big e shutdown or software update affects all sectors in the uk
flow restrictions are put on as required and you will find no doubt that your restriction was that evrybody was trying to file the same route as yourselves

however i do not use these answers as any excuse for the situation we try our best

sorry the large cat

11th Oct 2002, 07:17
Lets not forget guys that the airlines are now more than just customers of NATS, some of them are part owners; talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

11th Oct 2002, 09:50
Pilot collegues,

Might I suggest that those of you who feel so inclined, write to NATS management with your concerns, and specifically address a few questions to them.......for example:

Q: When you were warned 5 years ago that NATS did not have sufficient ATCOs, why did you ignore this warning?

Q: Why did you open NERC when you clearly knew you would not have enough staff to run the centre properly?

Q: Why have you continued to mis-represent the situation regarding the number of valid, operational ATCOs to the airlines?

I'm sure there are more, hopefully you might get an answer because we sure as hell can't.

I feel gutted frankly at the atrocious service you are getting these days. As an ATCO who was once proud of the excellant service I believe we offered, particularly in TC where I work, the current situation is embarrasing.

Let me assure all pilots that the shop floor are doing our level best to provide you with the very best service possible, but you simply would not believe the conditions we are working under right now. Our hands are totally tied thanks to the utterly useless management of the company that has rotted away for the last 5-6 years.

A final point, I would never criticsise any aviation professional who did not report for duty if he/she was not fit to work. This is not an industry for taking chances.


Nogbad the Bad
11th Oct 2002, 11:24
WELL SAID expedite descent !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE would all pilots and airline operators take NOTE of the three questions as stated in expedite descent's post ??

And also please know that we, the "shop floor" workers (for that is truly how our "management" see us) really do the best we can to keep you guys moving.

2 six 4
11th Oct 2002, 14:06
Interesting that there appears to be only one pilot posting and about 900 viewings.

During the run up to privatisation pilots were asked to voice some opinion but apart form a nice Mr Darke you did little to influence the politicians or airline owners.

The forecasts for this type of disruption appear to be that NATS is losing staff and this will happen more often in the next few years.

As the airlines own NATS I find it curious that they do nothing.

The tone of the thread ? I've done this job for a long time and never until recently been embarrased to say I work in UK ATC.

11th Oct 2002, 15:30
"Best air traffic services in Europe" as some have claimed before on these august forums....doesn't look like it, from many of the comments here.

In many industries (including ATC), the old adage that "[email protected] rolls downhill" usually applies. If proper direction and policies from management and owners isn't there, services suffer, sometimes very badly.

Nogbad the Bad
11th Oct 2002, 16:04
Don't you read these posts 411A ???? Or are you after (as seems to be usual with you) stirring up ill feeling and controversy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We controllers in NATS provide the best service we can......despite our "management" and owners !!!!!

11th Oct 2002, 19:21

"Better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool, than to open it and prove them right".

Please enlighten us with your wisdom......why is the USA better than everyone else at everything as you seem to think?

11th Oct 2002, 22:10
Well, for starters expediatedescent, the USA ATC system handles FAR more movements each day than the UK services could even hope to manage, with much worse weather (especially CB's), and on top of this, seems to do so without "some" ATC sectors "going silent" at night.

Shall I go on...or do you get the point?:rolleyes:

Warped Factor
11th Oct 2002, 22:39

Time to take off the rose tinted spectacles.

Given the current political thinking and management inertia on your side of the pond it'll only be a matter of time before much of what we're experiencing here will most likely start to haunt you. Your system is facing many of the same issues (http://www.natca.org/currentissues/default.msp) that are causing us so many problems here.

Your energies would be better spent trying to make sure that those that make these decisions learn from our mistakes rather then blindly repeating them as your much vaunted system looks like it might be about to do. Much more productive than your usual style of just taking cheap shots here.


11th Oct 2002, 23:01
411A - may I point out the A/C movements versus size of airspace controlled??????????????????????

12th Oct 2002, 02:31
Warped Factor
Yes, controller training needs to be accelerated to meet future retirements, and the new automated approach radar system under test at KELP is proving troublesome and way over budget...but OTOH it was announced today that WAAS will be available 6 months ahead of schedule, to provide CAT I landing capability to many airfields not served by an ILS.
Let us also not forget that GPS approaches abound on the western side of the great divide...not forgeting to mention that when you call (for example) SOCAL (LAX) approach, their reply doesn't sound like London Control ie: head in the bucket syndrome, with low volume.
But to be completely fair and objective, at least after you have landed at LHR, gone off duty and found your way to the pub...at least the beer is warm...;) :eek:

12th Oct 2002, 15:26
411A, have you ever been to Britain (it isn't called England)? If not, please don't! There are enough things that annoy me in my country without importing more....

2 six 4
12th Oct 2002, 19:41
I think the point is being obscured by this distraction from the colonies.;)

The question remains what do the airlines and pilots think of the routine closing of airspace and the seemingly downward spiral of NATS ability to meet it's licence committment to provide ATC in the UK airspace ? :(

As you own NATS wouldn't it be sensible to do something ?:confused: