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U.K. NATS Systems Failure

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U.K. NATS Systems Failure

Old 21st Nov 2023, 13:41
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One thing puzzles me in the recent NATs performance critique on these Forums. As recent as yesterday there were reports of ATC flow restrictions at Heathrow due Controller absence/sickness. Gatwick have also had repeated ATC delays reported for the same reason. ( Recently Tower controllers)
During my airline career substantial resources of expensive flying staff, pilots and cabin crew, were employed to cover this, in the form of Standby duties. On my last Long Haul fleet three full flight deck crews were rostered every day to cover last minute crew shortages due sickness etc.
It appears there is no such facility available to cover these avoidable NATS delays. Surely when an ATC controller “goes sick” etc. at short notice, there should be adequate rostered controllers at home to cover these normal eventualities?
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Old 21st Nov 2023, 15:10
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cessnapete, 2 answers to that.

1. how many crew did/does your airline employ that are Ďinterchangeableí? Iím guessing an airline could have 100-200 type rated pilots and to employ 5 extra for contingency would add 2.5-5% costs (simple maths to make a point).

An ATC unit might have 30 controllers (bigger units would have more but only valid within a smaller, sector specific group).

You canít take a DVR sector controller and plug them in on LAKES just because thereís a shortage on that sector. Itís like asking a Boeing pilot to fill in on an Airbus for a couple of days.

If you want to add an extra 5 staff for ATC standbys thatís a 17% increase in costs.


2. One of the previous pricing control period agreements for NATS (NERL) gave the choice to airlines of bronze service with low cost and higher expected delays, silver or gold service with higher costs and lower delays.
The unanimous answer was a cheap as possible.


NATS seems to be at a stage where delays are generally very low but occasionally batched together when a headline making failure occurs.
I believe NATS handles 24% of European traffic and contributes 3.1% of delays.

Last edited by Del Prado; 21st Nov 2023 at 15:58.
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Old 21st Nov 2023, 20:44
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Originally Posted by Del Prado

You canít take a DVR sector controller and plug them in on LAKES just because thereís a shortage on that sector. Itís like asking a Boeing pilot to fill in on an Airbus for a couple of days.
If you want to add an extra 5 staff for ATC standbys thatís a 17% increase in costs.

2. One of the previous pricing control period agreements for NATS (NERL) gave the choice to airlines of bronze service with low cost and higher expected delays, silver or gold service with higher costs and lower delays.
The unanimous answer was a cheap as possible.
.
The point of the validations on sectors is largely misunderstood by outsiders and even some of ATC managers who are often just looking at numbers not validations., made even more acute with the recent licensing regulations with minimum numbers of hours on a sector to remain current.. This now an issue everywhere, not only in the UK.
On the second remark, same old same ; In the 90s when we set up the CFMU, one of the main discussion point was , do we build a system to cater for the peaks of for the average traffic ? Unanimous decision pushed by the airlines, to make a plan using average yearly numbers. So from the start we created a system that will cause delays during the peak demands, whether hourly . weekly, or yearly . Some have also forgotten that.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 16:55
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CAA have appointed the Panel and published Terms of Reference. "Sneaked Out" might be a better term than published. Last time they had an expert in Safety Critical Systems on the panel, I'm not sure there is anybody with quite that expertise this time around.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 17:27
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Any link?
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 17:56
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It's on the CAA's page for the Investigation. I just search for NATS on their Home Page and it's one of the first few entries.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 18:42
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Again, ATC Watcher is right. He knows what he is talking about.
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Old 8th Dec 2023, 18:48
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He may be, but looking forwards, as we have to, don't think we'll be using different computers for each sector, when the bulk of this work is digitised.
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