Digital voice communication systems for UK air traffic control operations

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 4 July 2008



(2008), "Digital voice communication systems for UK air traffic control operations", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 80 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Digital voice communication systems for UK air traffic control operations

Article Type: Safety notes From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 4

Northrop Grumman Corporation recently announced that its European subsidiary, Park Air Systems, has successfully completed the first major installation of digital end-to-end communication equipment to modernise the ground-to-air communications system for UK air traffic services provider National Air Traffic Services (formerly NATS).

In 2007, NATS air traffic control operations for the London Terminal Control area moved to the company’s Swanwick centre at the completion of a 4 year relocation project. The transition involved the move of more than 500 air traffic controllers and engineers and the upgrade of all communications equipment.

Earlier this year, the final move of air traffic controllers providing military lower air space services was completed on time, making the entire service from Swanwick operational.

The US$35 million installation at Swanwick includes the GAREX voice communication control system (VCCS) and PAE T6 multimode digital radio (MDR), creating a digital end-to-end communications solution. The GAREX 220 VCCS is a fully digital, switching system and provides air-traffic controllers with instantaneous access to all available communications media; radio, telephone and intercom. The PAE T6 MDR provides ground-to-air analogue and digital communication in the VHF and UHF bands.

The system will ultimately allow ground-to-air communication from any one of 573 operator positions distributed across four voice switches from three sites at two locations to access any communication channel including 1,128 VHF radios and 440 UHF radio systems located at 30 radio sites across the UK.

NATS provides air traffic control services at 15 of the UK’s biggest airports, and en route air traffic services for aircraft flying through UK airspace and over the Eastern North Atlantic. Last year, NATS handled 2.5 million flights carrying more than 240 million passengers. Northrop Grumman Park Air Systems’ solution will facilitate NATS’ objective to handle all its en route traffic from two centres – the Swanwick Centre in Hampshire and the new Prestwick Centre in Scotland.

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