NATS’ OpenAir consultation

As part of the UK CAA’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy, National Air Traffic Systems (NATS), the UK’s main provider of air traffic services, has opened a consultation on its vision of supporting integrated airspace to facilitate the integration of new users including drones and eVTOL aircraft into all classes of airspace.

NATS is consulting on a new proposal named ‘OpenAir’ which aims to provide a universal data sharing and network management function to the air navigation service providers (ANSPs) network. Under the proposal, ANSPs would be required to provide movement data to NATS at their own cost.

The proposal has led to concerns that this could lead to mandatory flight plan submissions for all flights, in all classes of airspace, and that ANSPs would likely want to recover their costs, which could potentially lead to airspace access charging. Pete Stratten, CEO of the British Gliding Association (BGA), asked NATS to provide clarification on the potential cost implication for the General Aviation (GA) community.

He was told: “It’s important to note that as part of the OpenAir consultation, NATS does not plan to charge airspace users for air traffic services in integrated airspace.

“Similarly, we do not propose to manage any more airspace than we already do, and through NATS OpenAir we do not propose to introduce any new areas of controlled airspace.

“NATS envisage a time when all airspace, including Class G, is integrated and respects the right of GA to operate autonomously as defined by flight rules within Airspace Class E, F, & G in that integrated future.

“The aim of the proposal is to provide a universal data sharing and network management function to the growing number of air navigation service providers to enable this integration – those service providers would bear the cost of the NATS OpenAir service, the regulatory framework for which would need to be determined by the CAA.

“In developing the NATS OpenAir proposal, our aim has been to provide the much-needed clarit  sought by the industry and define a framework in which all stakeholders can innovate with confidence, while protecting the crucial rights and access of existing airspace users.

“It’s also important to note that we want to work with the industry, and key stakeholders like the BGA,
to develop the proposal in further detail.

“We intend to spend much of this year consulting with all corners of the aviation network to gather feedback, insights and recommendations on the NATS OpenAir concept to ensure a fair and equitable
environment for all operators, new and existing.”

The consultation is open until 28 March and can be found NATS


Author: FTN Editor

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