Photo provided with kind permission from NATS
The UK presents one of the busiest air traffic control environments
in the world and it’s set to become even more challenging. Air travel
numbers are on the rise and that means airspace is getting ever more
complex to control while ensuring safety and reducing the
At NATS we are on the front line of air traffic control, managing
around 2.5 million aircraft and 200 million passengers flying in skies
above the UK. Technology plays a critical role in our operation, but
flight delays and cancellations publicly exposed the inadequacy of our
Our legacy approach was keeping planes stuck on the ground or in
holding patterns meaning passenger delays. We had to put the focus on
managing our services, not our infrastructure. We needed a better way.
An efficient way.
Towards zero engineering incidents
weren’t just looking a technology replacement, but a strategic
solution to underpin our journey to a zero-incident culture. The
ServiceNow platform was the clear choice.
While thousands of planes were accumulating airmiles, our team was
literally clocking up miles of their own, walking between 170 screens
in our control room to monitor the status of all services. It was time
consuming, increased the risk of mistakes occurring and made it
difficult to diagnose service issues at a platform level.
We’ve turned that situation on its head with a single platform to
bring everything together. We’re making good ground in our pursuit of
zero engineering incidents too. With ServiceNow’s ITOM-Operational Intelligence with Machine
Learning we are able to detect anomalies across our services and take
preventive action before it becomes service impacting. That’s
incredibly powerful in our safety-critical world. If an instance
happens in one of our applications, ServiceNow will be commanded to
remediate and orchestrate it before services are affected or air
traffic controllers even know an incident is occurring.
Capacity is secured, planes aren’t delayed, and the passenger and
airline experiences are optimised.
A bird’s eye view
Using ServiceNow, we will gain a
‘single pane of glass’ view of all services, which will have a
tremendously positive impact on the experience of our employees at
work. Rather than struggling with numerous systems to review and
report on issues, their time shall be freed up to focus on finding
solutions to the problems at hand.
The single view will have another positive effect in terms of new
staff onboarding. The time required for new starters to gain
Engineering Validation to work in air traffic control has reduced by
50%, from one year to just six months.
We now also need fewer command line ‘low-level’ engineering skills,
with our skillset constantly evolving to further drive provision of
safety and informed decision making.
Working in frontline engineering has become much simpler and more
empowering with our ServiceNow-powered approach.
A partner with a vision
With aviation and technology
both advancing at a rapid pace, we know that despite our progress we
will always need to transform and adapt. But I also know that we have
the right foundation to continue our journey, because we now manage
the entirety of our services on a single scalable platform. In my
view, this is the most powerful outcome of our transformation so far.
Even more importantly, the ServiceNow roadmap matches our strategic
priorities with some of the upcoming features that we know will be
essential to our future plans. This includes the introduction of
advanced operations intelligence, which will further increase our
ability to predict incidents and eliminate service outages.
I sometimes get asked how stressful a job in air traffic control is.
Thanks to our skilled engineers and controllers, as well as having the
right technology to underpin our mission-critical business, this
usually isn’t the case. Through skills development and ongoing digital
transformation efforts we are driving excellence for air traffic