NATS installs new digital flight strip system at Bristol Airport

NATS installs new digital flight strip system at Bristol Airport

NATS, the UK’s leading air traffic services provider, has successfully introduced its new Hub and Spoke Electronic Flight Progress Strip (EFPS) system at Bristol Airport.

The new system will incorporate the airport’s tower and approach services that handle over 75,000 flights per year carrying more than 8.5 million passengers to destinations across Europe and beyond.


The roll-out follows the system’s previous successful implementations at Belfast International, Belfast City and Farnborough Airports when controllers stopped using paper strips to record aircraft information in favour of electronic flight progress data using new Hub and Spoke system architecture.

While the concept of electronic strips is not new, all NATS’ Hub and Spoke systems link to a centralised set of data servers to drive operational screens in connected airports. This removes the need for every airport air traffic control tower to host its own locally-installed servers and the provision of individual data links at a specific site.

The new electronic flight information system delivers significant benefits in infrastructure costs as well as enhancing the way in which airport towers can share data, thanks to its ability to transfer and share data from the same single database. In Bristol’s case, EFPS will also improve the airport’s stand-management system after it successfully passed integration testing.

The new system, which will also be introduced at Southampton, Cardiff and London City airports, means that controller workload is reduced; bringing safety and capacity benefits as controllers have more time to handle more flights and monitor increased levels of air traffic.

Steve O’Donoghue, NATS General Manager, Bristol Airport said: “The benefit that EFPS will bring to Bristol can’t be overestimated; the implementation stands NATS and the airport in good stead for improved efficient procedures and provides the capacity for predicted airport growth.

“The ability to share data with our airport customer, passengers and airlines will be further enhanced with the anticipated integration of the airport management system and use of data clearances, realising tangible operational benefits to all stakeholders.”


Interesting that this news release garners no comments from the F4A community and yet it is the most important change to air traffic control at Bristol since controlled airspace linking it to the national airways structure was introduced in 2006. EFPS paves the way for digital connectivity to the wider ATC network and the opportunity for pilots to receive digital departure clearances when that part of the system is activated later in 2019. When coupled with the surface movement radar that will be operational by autumn 2019 (a system that allows controllers to ‘see’ and separate aircraft taxiing on the ground during periods of poor visibility) Bristol ATC will be far better equipped to deal with the challenges of an airport handling 10 million passengers and more.

Incidentally, all businesses need to pause occasionally to take stock and allow the infrastructure and systems to catch up with the growth. 2019 will see mainly ‘organic’ expansion whilst new stands, taxiways, fire station, admin building, airline admin building, MSCP and car hire building are completed and brought on-line. Planning permission for growth to 12 million pax will then hopefully be secured leading to a very exciting 2020 and beyond.


Many thanks for those comments, Kingshat. As for commenting on the press release, and I can only speak for myself, I never comment on technical matters on anything to do with aviation technicalities in terms of my opinion or view, as I am acutely conscious that I am unqualified to do so. I posted this press release in the BRS General thread the other day in the hope that others who are qualified would perhaps give us the benefit of their experience and that is what you have done for which I am grateful.

As for ongoing growth, I understand the valid points you make about 2019 and I said something along the same lines myself recently in the BRS Long Haul thread, viz.

Certainly the quietest over the past few years but BRS has seen some tremendous passenger growth from 2014 onwards:

2014 6.333 million
2015 6.781 million
2016 7.604 million
2017 8.234 million
2018 Between 8.6 million and 8.7 million

There was bound to come a time when the pace would slacken for a while. With serious expenditure on the airport showing no signs of diminishing the owners and senior management must be confident of more substantial growth. Indeed, they say they are in their master plan observations.


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