LONDON- London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has finalized plans for the construction of a new cutting-edge contingency control tower. Further fortifying its operations with the expertise of NATS (National Air Traffic Services).
The initiative aims to enhance operational resilience and safeguard the nation’s aviation infrastructure.
London Heathrow New ATC Backup Tower
The groundbreaking Virtual Contingency Facility (VCF), set to become operational in 2025, is already underway. Heathrow’s significant investment is replacing the existing backup ‘tower’ in the new facility. Subsequently reinforcing the airport’s ability to handle disruptions effectively.
The original VCF, established in 2009 at an undisclosed location off the airport, was a pioneering concept worldwide. Designed as a windowless replica of the primary control tower, it enabled the airport to function at approximately 70% capacity when needed.
With the latest advancements, the new state-of-the-art VCF will be situated at the airport itself. Initially matching the operational capacity of its predecessor.
NATS and Heathrow are jointly striving to elevate the VCF’s capabilities, ultimately achieving 100% operational capacity in the project’s second phase.
Ultra-high-definition cameras will provide real-time visuals to controllers, ensuring seamless airport operations.
Kelly Stone, Head of Airport Operations at Heathrow, emphasized the importance of operational resilience in the face of disruptions.
She stated, “Investing in a state-of-the-art Virtual Contingency Facility with NATS provides us with confidence that passenger journeys will still proceed even during unexpected operational challenges.”
Preparedness and Unprecedented Resilience
While the original VCF has never been utilized in an actual incident, NATS’ control tower team regularly conducts exercises simulating the closure of the main tower and transferring operations to the contingency facility. Their goal is to achieve this transition within a few hours, if necessary.
Pete Glass, NATS General Manager for Air Traffic Services at Heathrow, emphasized the significance of a robust air traffic control operation. “Heathrow’s importance to both the UK and global aviation demands an industry-leading level of operational resilience.”
“The anticipated second phase offers an opportunity to deploy the latest technologies. Further ensuring Heathrow remains at the forefront, just as we did with the original Virtual Contingency Facility 14 years ago,” Added Pete
With NATS leading the charge, London Heathrow’s commitment to safeguarding its operations and passengers marks a significant stride in bolstering the airport’s reputation as one of the world’s premier aviation hubs.
The future Virtual Contingency Facility is poised to become a pinnacle of technological advancement, guaranteeing uninterrupted travel and seamless airport services.
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