Olympic Case Study


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With the world’s attention focused on London, the UK Government wanted assurance that rigorous security arrangements were in place for UK airspace. NATS also had to be prepared for potentially disruptive summer weather, such as thunderstorms.

This was a unique challenge, and one that NATS rose to with characteristic calmness and professionalism. NATS had to be prepared for every eventuality, working with a wide range of stakeholders, on a job of the highest visibility. As a tribute to the way NATS managed the project, it has already been asked to share its experience with the organisers of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

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Olympic Case Study

  1. 1. Performancethrough InnovationCase study:The OlympicChallengeMaintainingaseamlessserviceduringoneoftheUKsbiggestaviationchallenges.
  2. 2. The NATS Olympics projectwas delivered seamlessly,and is testament to the hoursof meticulous planning andeffort of everyone involvedacross the business. We cantruly say NATS did our bit toensure a smooth and seamlessservice for our customers duringthis unique opportunity toshowcase the UK.“”Richard DeakinNatsChief Executive Officer
  3. 3. IntroductionIn July 2005 London was awardedthe Olympic and ParalympicGames of 2012. NATS, the UK’sair navigation services provider,immediately took on the task ofpreparing for one of the biggestchallenges in its history.The task was to manage themaximum predicted influx of extraair traffic, including a surge inbusiness and general aviationflights, at the same time as providingbusiness as usual services to fiveof the busiest airports in the world.There was also the matter of playingour role in maintaining UK security ata time when London would be in theeyes of the world.
  4. 4. On a typical summer’s day NATS controls around 6,000flights, 4,000 of which arrive or depart London’s airportsand fly though one of the most complex and congestedairspaces in the world. It includes Heathrow – one of theworld’s busiest airports – and Gatwick – the world’s busiestsingle runway airport – as well as Stansted, Luton and thecentral London City airport. There are some 50 smaller,but busy, airports on its outskirts, including Farnborough,Oxford and Southend.To add to the challenge, numerous flight paths betweennorthern Europe and North America cross over Londonand South East England.With the world’s attention focused on London, the UKgovernment wanted assurance that rigorous securityarrangements were in place for UK airspace. NATS also hadto be prepared for potentially disruptive summer weather,such as thunderstorms. It was going to be a demandingand high profile time.It was against this backdrop that we identified theOlympic-sized task we faced. At the top of our priority listwas maintaining a safe, efficient, and uninterrupted businessas usual service for airline customers.Potential air trafficNATS had to maximise the capacity of the airspaceto prepare for:› An estimated half a million overseas spectators.› Flights carrying 70,000 overseas‘Olympics Family’ members.› Flights carrying 150 Heads of State.› 700 extra commercial flights into London’smain airports (assuming the existing schedulewas fully utilised).› 10,000 business jet movements.ThechallengeOur task› Maintain and maximise capacityof London’s core TerminalManoeuvring Area (TMA) Airportswhich would be operating atmaximum capacity at times.› Create extra capacity to satisfydemands on Instrument FlightRules (IFR) airspace to continueto meet core demands withoutdisruption.› Manage a significant expectedincrease in IFR movementsto London’s second andthird tier airports.› Accommodate militaryrequirements with multiplefixed wing and rotary fighterand surveillance aircraft in thebiggest peacetime militaryoperation the UK has ever seen.
  5. 5. “United Airlines really appreciates the workthat NATS has done in preparing for the LondonOlympics. NATS listened to our needs andconcerns, giving us and all other stakeholdersthe opportunity to participate in the extensiveplanning process by communicating andcoordinating directly with us and giving usunrivalled service quality.”Mark Hurston United Airlines - Air Traffic Systems, Regional Manager,International Air Traffic Operations, N. Atlantic, UK, Europe, Middle East and AfricaNATS had to maximisethe capacityof the airspaceto prepare for:(1) 700 extracommercial flightsinto London’smain airports.(2) Flights carrying 150Heads of State.(3) Flights carrying70,000 overseas‘Olympic Family’ members.(4) An estimated halfa million overseasspectators.1423
  6. 6. NATS approach to the monumental task was to breakdown the challenge into specific areas: Airspace, Airports,Military Liaison and Outreach.AirspaceNATS took a holistic approach to the challenge at hand andworked with its many stakeholders to identify where temporarychanges could meet the concerns the Olympics presented.We looked at potential pinch points created by the influxof extra traffic and the demand for routes into and out ofsome of the tertiary airports on London’s periphery – asHeathrow and Gatwick operate at or near full capacityas a matter of course.An extra concern was the UK government’s decisionto introduce security-based airspace restrictions aroundLondon. The impact would be felt particularly by the region’spopular and politically active general and business aviationcommunity, so it had to be handled with sensitivity.The government put two security zones in the skiesabove London:Taking into account the impact of these airspacerestrictions, the new flows to tertiary airfields, the need forcommercial, helicopter, and broadcaster movements andthe expected increase in business and general aviation,it was clear that the existing airspace would not be flexibleenough to respond to any disruption during the Olympics.As a result, we would have to increase our airspace network.The solution to meet the demands of all aviators andcomply with the security restrictions was to propose anumber of new, temporary, controlled airspaces.Working with the Department for Transport, the CivilAviation Authority (CAA) – the UK regulatory authority –and the general and business aviation community,who generally fly from London’s second and third tierairports, NATS created three areas of temporary controlledairspace, and designed new routes into and out of theOympics designated airports.The design underwent intensive evaluation in oursimulators before being submitted for approval to the CAA.This also included local community consultationThese changes were intended to accommodate theincrease in business and general aviation without affectingthe service to commercial airlines. This was done by allowingNATS air traffic controllers to coordinate the arrival anddeparture of all aircraft through the already congested,and now restricted, airspace above London.These temporary airspace changes affected almost everyaspect of NATS London TMA and a significant section of itsArea Control Room. Once the airspace structure was agreed,our controllers and equipment had to be made ready tobring this airspace to life.Thesolution› A restricted zone above all of London and itssurrounding area. Flights could enter this zone aslong as they had filed a flight plan and were receivingan ATC service.› A prohibited zone above the main Olympic Park inEast London and over key London venues – accessibleby commercial and broadcast aviation only.95%Reduction in delays fromthe same period in 2011.400Controllers were trainedto operate the newtemporary airspace.46Movements per hourbetween Birminghamand Coventry airports.
  7. 7. Our training experts devised a package that includedboth online and simulator based exercises through whichsome 400 controllers were trained to operate the newairspace and routings. This was carried out over thethree months prior to the Olympics to ensure they hadthe very latest training.NATS engineers worked hard to ensure that the changesto airspace were loaded onto NATS systems – and, whenno longer needed, removed – in a timely and safe manner.They also created new supervisory positions and installednew workstations for the controllers managing thetemporary airspace.AirportsThe airports in London and the South East at which NATSprovides tower ATC services were also at the forefront of ourOlympics programme.With Heathrow and Gatwick fully booked with commercialflights the impact of Olympics traffic on them was minimal.However, both would serve as main reception airports forathletes, officials, media and the many thousands of visitorswho came to London as spectators. This put the need forharmonisation across the whole of the London airportnetwork into sharp focus.Surrounding airports would be affected by increases inall forms of traffic, so they adapted their operations to copewith new traffic and to support the London Terminal ControlArea ecosystem.› NATS Farnborough produced a new set of proceduresand completed the ATC Procedures Safety Analysiswith all the associated mitigations required.The procedures included Letters of Agreement withthe Military and nine other airspace users.› Farnborough worked closely with NATS controllersat Southampton to manage airspace that directlyaffected both airports.› Luton anticipated an increase in business jet trafficand had to develop plans to offload aircraft to otherlocal airfields, including Cranfield, because of parkingrestraints. The airport worked with NATS centralOlympics team to minimise the impact these positioningflights would have on London’s airspace.› Stansted controllers ran simulator exercises to prepareall staff for the anticipated additional traffic. Additionalstaff were rostered at the beginning and end of theOlympics and other expected busy key dates.› Birmingham’s ATC simulation assessed the airspacecapacity between Birmingham and Coventry airportsduring the Olympics to manage 46 movements per hour.The airport’s ATC and its stakeholders also conducteda hazard analysis to identify safety risks caused by theincrease in air traffic movements, unfamiliar aircrew,RA(T)s, security incidents, risks of runway incursions,airspace infringements and level busts.It has been reassuring to know that NATShave had everything in place to deal withanything at a moment’s notice. Like all formsof insurance – you never know if or whenit is going to be needed.“”Mark Deacon Navigation ServicesAdministrator, Monarch Airlines
  8. 8. Safetyandsecurity(1–3) The militarywas involvedat every stage of theplanningand implementation.(45) The ATLAS ControlCentre allowed the militaryto monitor flightsin and out of the restrictedand prohibited zones.12345
  9. 9. Military liaisonThe safety and security of the Olympics were thegovernment’s highest priority. To ensure the authoritieshad the flexibility to carry out airborne security procedureswhile NATS moved high volumes of traffic through Londonairspace, close coordination between NATS and the UKMinistry of Defence was vital.The military was involved at every stage of the planningand implementation of our Olympics programme. Over ayear in advance, key military personnel took seats on theNATS project board to participate in regular meetings andbriefing sessions.Monitoring of the prohibited and restricted zones wascarried out by military controllers in a special commandcentre housed within NATS Swanwick Centre, known as ATLASControl. In the biggest airborne security operation sinceWorld War II, NATS engineers designed, built, and configuredthis new, bespoke centre in an unused training room. Thiswas the result of longstanding discussions and liaisonwith the military to make sure military and civil operationscould run concurrently with agreed procedures, processes,communication channels, and service level agreements.The ATLAS Control Centre allowed the military to monitorflights in and out of the restricted and prohibited zonesthroughout the build up to, and during, the Olympics. Militarypersonnel were also embedded in NATS critical responseunit, the Air Traffic Incident Communications CoordinationCell (ATICCC), and their close proximity to NATS controllersallowed direct lines of communication and coordinationbetween military and civil aspects of ATC, including fighterpilots and controllers.OutreachThe implementation of the restricted and prohibitedzones over London during the Olympics would have thebiggest impact on business and general aviation. No businessor general aviation flights would be allowed through theprohibited zone, while flights through the restricted zonewould have to follow strict flight planning procedures.Any non-compliant flights found in those zones would bespotted by the military’s ATLAS Control. With the potentialto trigger interception flights and disrupt commercial traffic,it was critical that pilots understood their responsibilities.NATS Safety and Public Relations teams worked withcolleagues from various government bodies, including theCAA and the Department for Transport, to create an outreachprogramme. This began 18 months before the Olympics toensure that anyone flying during the summer of 2012 wasaware of the restrictions. This joint effort included:This was a major exercise to integrate anintense military operation into an existing,busy civil ATC operation – safely. Throughoutthe years of planning and implementation,NATS safety experts were at the core of theprocess. They carried out numerous hazardanalysis exercises for proposed changes toensure they conformed to NATS rigoroussafety standards without jeopardising anyof the safeguards already in place.› A year of detailed preparatory work with more than100 commercial airlines operating in and out ofthe London TMA.› Attendance at airshows and conferences in the UKand around the world to present and discuss theOlympics airspace changes to commercial, businessand general aviation audiences.› Publicity material detailing the changes and the newairspace including leaflets, podcasts, articles andonline tutorials.› Media campaign to raise awareness of NATSinvolvement in the Olympics and the changesto airspace.› File a flight plan days – designed to show generalaviators how to file flight plans correctly.› Telephone hotline and online information hub, set upto help the GA community understand the changes andthe requirements on them regarding flight planning.› NATS much-respected ATICCC was active throughoutthe Olympics period. Daily calls were held withairlines and airports, Eurocontrol, CAA, DFT and theMeteorological Office to keep stakeholders up todate with all operational factors to help operationalplanning on a daily basis.
  10. 10. Our years of planning, consultation and liaison delivereda solution fit to tackle one of the biggest challenges in NATShistory. Following our careful evaluation and comprehensiveunderstanding of the task at hand, we maintained – andenhanced – the high level of safety and service ourcustomers expect, as well as accommodating the additionalOlympics traffic in all its forms.Through careful preparation we were able to managethe airspace changes with total confidence.We modelled our solution using the maximum predictedimpact, which meant we would have been capable ofcoping with major interference to air traffic flows withoutcompromising the safety or capacity of our service delivery.This was a unique challenge, and one that NATS rose to withcharacteristic calmness and professionalism. We had to beprepared for every eventuality, working with a wide range ofstakeholders, on a job of the highest visibility. As a tributeto the way we managed the project, we have already beenasked to share our experience with the organisers of theRio Olympics in 2016.Theresult We would like to express our thanks andappreciation for the outstanding preparationfor the Olympics 2012 in London related tothe airspace operation in UK airspace –as well as for the professional and helpfulset-up of the daily teleconferences.“”Ekkehard Gutt Flight OperationsSupport, Emirates(12) The years ofplanning, consultationand liaison delivered asolution fit to tackle thebiggest challenge inNATS history.(34) Through carefulpreparation we were ableto manage the airspacechanges with totalconfidence.12 34› Safety: No risk bearing losses of separation attributedto the Olympics and no systems issues. There werejust 11 infringements of NATS temporary controlledairspace by General Aviation aircraft.› Service: Just 593 minutes of delay attributableto NATS throughout the whole Olympics period,compared with 13,300 over the same month in 2011– a 95% reduction. Including the Paralympics period,delay stood at just 1,900 minutes.› Value: In one of the most challenging periods everfor UK air traffic, NATS generated just 0.1% of totalEuropean delay attributable to ATC, despite handlingnearly a quarter of Europe’s traffic.
  11. 11. The Olympics project brought togetherNATS world class expertise in:› Maximising runway capacity› Airspace design and implementation,particularly to deal with temporaryincreased levels of traffic› Training› Engineering› Safety analysis› Airport ATC› Media relations and public consultationIf you are facing a similar challenge, bidding to host the Olympics,or simply anticipating a sudden and temporary increase in trafficand want to know more about how that could impact your ATC,contact NATS Consultancy on Consultancy@nats.co.uk or+44(0) 20 8750 3805 for more information.CanNATShelpyou?Want to find out more? Understanding NATSVisit our website:http://www.nats.co.uk/Visit:http://www.nats.co.uk/about-us/understanding-nats/
  12. 12. Heathrow HouseBath RoadLondonTW5 9ATUnited KingdomT: +44 (0)20 8750 3704F: +44 (0)20 8750 3611E: sales.info@nats.co.ukhttp://www.nats.co.uk