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Air Traffic

What is air traffic? 

It is the constant flow of movement that happens in the air. It requires continuous monitoring and control through various procedures and a rigorous system of rules and regulations. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), with cooperation from different countries’ governments as well as the airlines that make them up, have set forth the rules and regulations for developing the daily movement of aviation companies and travel agencies through airspace. 

What is air traffic control?

ATC is a service provided by controllers on the ground who guide aircraft in controlled airspaces and provide information and support to pilots in uncontrolled airspaces. Their goal is to provide safety, order, and efficiency for air traffic.

Depending on the type of flight and the class of airspace, the controller can offer mandatory instructions or advice that pilots can disregard at their discretion. The pilot is the ultimate authority in operating the aircraft and may deviate from ATC instructions in an emergency to maintain flight safety.

What is real-time air traffic?

All flights and their movements around the world are recorded by radar. On their way through air space, the radar waves encounter objects like airplanes, helicopters, drones, and other things, and they bounce off of them. The wave emitter’s distance to impact is measured to determine the exact position of the objects. The location data is sent to a map and digitized, creating a real-time flight radar that can be checked at any time.

Not all flights can be registered on a global scale using a single wave emitter. Data from radar receivers around the world are aggregated to create a complete image.

What is world air traffic?

The number varies depending on the time of day and year: on a Friday afternoon between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. (UTC coordinated universal time), in July or August, for instance, there are just over 16,000 flights in the air. On the same day and time in January or February, though, there will be around 13,000 flights in the air.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says the global air transportation network doubles in size at least once every 15 years, and it is expected to do so again by 2030. Nearly 40,000 new aircraft are calculated to be needed in the next 20 years, so by 2037, there will probably be 63,220 aircraft in the world, with the obsolete ones being discarded.

What do air traffic controllers do?

They are the individuals in charge of professionally directing aircraft traffic in the airspace and at airports in a safe, orderly, fast way. It provides pilots with the instructions and information necessary to prevent collisions within the airspace of their jurisdiction, mainly between aircraft and obstacles in the maneuvering area.

Their work is complicated, given the dense airplane traffic, possible meteorological changes, and other unforeseen events. The controllers are chosen from candidates with great spatial ability. They get intensive training in control tower simulators, approach control, area control, and radar, as well as pilots and in-flight simulators to deepen their knowledge of the instruments.

What is air navigation?

This is the process of piloting an airplane by taking it from one geographic location to another by an established route and monitoring its position along the way. The basic navigation methods are visual, dead reckoning, and instrument assistance. Air navigation is based on observing the sky, the terrain, and the data provided by the flight instruments.

What benchmarks in air traffic are there in Spain?

FerroNATS is the leading private air traffic control services company. It was created in 2011 by Ferrovial Services and British air traffic operator NATS. It currently manages ten Spanish airport control towers – that is, one in five flights that take off or land in Spain, or over half a million flights and more than 30 million passengers a year are in their hands.

These figures, and their performance, demonstrate FerroNATS’s capacity in air control for its client, AENA, and its leading role in the Spanish air sector. From the Security area – and with the support of the other departments – FerroNATS has established a particular strategy that enables perfecting all the processes to achieve maximum security and operational excellence. The key to the company’s security strategy is based on its own Security Management System and the added value of its air traffic controllers. 

Fun facts about air traffic

  • London’s Croydon Airport was the first in the world to introduce air traffic control in 1920.
  • The airport’s first traffic control tower opened in Cleveland in 1930. 
  • Radar was adopted in the 1950s to monitor airspace.
  • International demand from passengers contracted 75.6% in 2020. Capacity (measured in available seat kilometers, or ASK) fell 68.1%, and load factor fell 19.2 percentage points to 62.8%.
  • The airports in the AENA network closed out 2020 with 76,064,322 passengers, compared to 275,247,387 in 2019, a 72.4% drop due to mobility restrictions both in Spain and the rest of the world due to COVID-19.
  • IATA expects a 50.4% improvement in demand by 2021 (compared to 2020). This would put the industry at 50.6% of 2019 levels. If travel restrictions increase due to new virus variants, the improvement in demand could be limited to just 13% (compared to 2020), leaving the industry at 38% of 2019 levels.

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