Aviation officials are preparing for today to be the busiest-ever in UK skies.
The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) expect to handle a record-breaking 8,800 flights in and out of the country on Friday, July 21.
And this transfixing footage shows just how hectic that looks on a screen, with planes looping around Britain – the heaviest air traffic concentrated to London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted.
This transfixing footage shows just how hectic Britain’s airspace is, with planes looping around Britain – the heaviest air traffic concentrated to London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted
The landmark spike will be felt across many of the UK’s airports as schools close for summer and families embark on seasonal getaways.
It marks a high-point of the country’s busiest-ever summer, with 770,000 flights scheduled between June and August – an increase of 40,000 from last year.
Manchester Airport has already reported its busiest May on record and its 38th consecutive month of passenger growth; Cardiff Airport has seen an almost 11 per cent rise in traffic and Luton is recording growth of seven per cent.
Air traffic chiefs, however, are warning that the skies are now nearing full capacity.
New heights: The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) expect to handle a record-breaking 8,800 flights in and out of the country on Friday, July 21
Despite successful handling of flights during record-breaking months, NATS claim the aging design of UK airspace means that growth cannot continue without delays rising significantly.
A UK-wide forecast from the Department for Transport shows that, without modernisation, the flying public will experience 50 times the number of delays, with 8,000 cancellations per year by 2030.
NATS is currently spending in excess of £600m on new technology to help boost capacity, but argues that investment must be complemented by improvements to the UK’s network of flight paths and air routes, changes that will require government support.
A shift away from destinations such as Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia in favour of Spain, Italy and the US has also resulted in major changes in the flows of traffic.
A rise in delays would not only inconvenience passengers, but also damage the wider economy, experts warn.
Supply and demand: Today marks a high-point of the country’s busiest-ever summer, with 770,000 flights scheduled between June and August – an increase of 40,000 from last year
A UK-wide forecast from the Department for Transport shows that by 2030 there will be 3,100 days’ worth of flight delays – 50 times the amount seen in 2015, along with 8,000 cancellations a year.
NATS is calling on the government to show support for modernisation in order to provide the capacity needed for the levels of traffic expected over the next decade.
Earlier this year the government consulted on plans to update airspace change policy and is now reviewing the feedback.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: HOW DOES IT WORK?
Air traffic control aims to move planes safely and efficiently through the airspace system. Controllers keep aircraft set distances apart while moving them from airport to airport using designated routes.
Before take off, airlines will file a flight plan with air traffic control so every controller who deals with the flight on its journey is aware of its details and route.
When an aircraft is at an airport, the pilots on board will be in contact with controllers in the airport’s control tower.
Air traffic controllers will monitor the aircraft while it is on the ground and give it permission to take off.
Support: NATS is calling on the government to help secure the capacity needed to meet traffic demand over the next decade
Once airborne the pilot will then normally talk to another controller using a radar screen to track the aircraft’s progress through the airways system (equivalent to motorways in the sky).
Each controller is responsible for planes in a set area of airspace. When an aircraft is nearing the edge of their sector they will coordinate its handover to the next controller. This will continue through the aircraft’s journey until it is handed over to the controller at the destination airport.
Most airliners are monitored by controllers using radar in airways and routes known as ‘controlled airspace’.
The majority of airspace that is left is known as ‘uncontrolled’, and this is used by the military and recreational pilots. In this airspace some air traffic control services are provided, especially near airfields, but in much of the airspace it is the pilots’ responsibility to see and avoid each other.
Source: Civil Aviation Authority