Air controllers of the future get new £10m Whiteley training site

FLYING HIGH Laura Gibson from Fareham is training as an air traffic controller NATS in Whiteley.   Picture: Steve Reid (113416-155)
FLYING HIGH Laura Gibson from Fareham is training as an air traffic controller NATS in Whiteley. Picture: Steve Reid (113416-155)
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THE air traffic controllers of the future will be trained in a £10m state-of-the-art facility – designed by the people who will be teaching them.

National Air Traffic Services has opened the new training centre at its corporate headquarters in Whiteley, which will take in up to 120 new trainees each year.

For decades, new controllers had been based at Hurn training college, near Bournemouth.

The new centre provides six simulator rooms that can realistically recreate the scenarios the students will face in the real world, a 3D aerodrome simulator, as well as classrooms equipped with the latest technology.

Training manager for NATS Garry Jackson said: ‘Hurn is probably 70 to 80 years old and we had inherited it as a site, there was no real flow to it.

‘Now we have got a unique situation where we handed over the design to the staff.

‘They’re the people who knew best the constraints of working at Bournemouth so they could sit down with the architects and tell them what they wanted.’

Laura Gibson, from Henley Gardens in Fareham, started her course in August, and said: ‘My parents have both worked for NATS for years, so I’ve grown up with it.

‘I did a placement at Hurn for a year and really enjoyed it.

‘I applied when I finished and got in – I’m the only woman out of 12 people on my course, so it’s still a bit unusual for a woman. But I absolutely love it here. I have my business degree as a back-up, but this is definitely my first choice of career.’

The 43,000sq ft centre will host to dozens of trainees from across the globe, including the Middle East, China and America.

Richard Deakin, NATS chief executive, said: ‘Hurn has served us well but times are changing and the challenge of training people on increasingly complex systems has really forced us to move into a more modern facility.

‘Most countries air traffic services are still nationalised, but it’s been 10 years that we’ve been privatised, so when it comes to helping airlines and airports, we’re one of the few commercial operations that people can call on.’