Prestwick has become the home of the largest air traffic control centre in Europe, as part of a plan to streamline traffic operations throughout the UK. The structure will have responsibility for almost half of the country’s aircraft movements when a similar centre in Manchester is closed later this year.
Costing around £180m to build, Prestwick’s new centre will watch out for aeroplanes in Scotland, Northern England and Ireland, and the skies over the Atlantic Ocean. The total area of responsibility is in excess of 2m square kilometres.
A second control centre, located in Hampshire, will guard the Midlands, Wales, London, and the Home Counties.
The are controlled by National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which employs roughly 800 people at the Prestwick centre alone. A further 130 controllers will be relocated to Scotland when the Manchester centre is closed.
Prestwick boss, Pauline Lamb, was delighted with the new air traffic control centre – “We started building in 2005, and now here we stand fully operational, under budget and on time. There is a real sense of achievement for everybody involved."
The control centre will be officially opened on the 5th of February, at a ceremony attended by Princess Anne. The centre is the second such building at the site, standing near a similar structure that was built in the 1980s.
Prestwick will now handle up to a million flights a year, encompassing both civilian and military aeroplanes. In total, NATS was responsible for the well-being of 2.2m aircraft during 2009, a reduction of 9.6% over 2008.