Air traffic control gallery opens

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An air traffic control gallery has opened at The National Museum of Computing featuring interactive exhibits highlighting the past, present and future of air traffic control.

Sponsored by NATS, the UK’s leading air traffic management company, the setting of the gallery in The National Museum of Computing has particular historic resonance because Bletchley Park, where the museum is located, was previously home to the company’s engineering training college.

The new gallery will appeal to a wide cross-section of the public and offer insights into the behind-the-scenes world that supports everyday air travel. It highlights the pervasiveness of computing in the modern world and how much progress has been made in a few decades. It will have a particular role in TNMOC’s Learning Programme by giving a glimpse of the variety of opportunities that careers in computer science and engineering can offer.

The centre-piece of the gallery is a high-fidelity Air Traffic Control Simulator that gives visitors a real sense of what it is like to be an air traffic controller at a NATS control centre or major airport today. In replay mode, visitors can observe aircraft movements on a panoramic three-screen virtual airport or a Control Centre radar display and listen to radio transmits between the controllers and pilots. In interactive mode, visitors can take up position at the simulators and experience, hands-on, being a controller while a member of the museum team acts as a pilot, flying the simulated aircraft in response to commands from the visitors.

The gallery also features an historic green-screen, round IRIS radar display (an investigative radar recording system) with working 1970’s PDP-11 hardware that has been restored to working order by TNMOC volunteers. This eye-catching console and screen operated behind closed doors at NATS Control Centre in West Drayton for 25 years until it was decommissioned in 2008.

Alongside the displays is a representation of NATS history interspersed with video footage, as well as artefacts such as the first National Airspace System (NAS) logbook and the final flight strip for Concorde.

Gary Gibson, Engineering General Manager NATS, said: “NATS has historic ties with Bletchley and so we were delighted to continue our association with this new exhibition. The NATS Engineering Training section was at Bletchley Park from 1947 to 1993 and I personally worked at the Park from 1983 to 1993. The NATS gallery is an ideal addition to The National Museum of Computing’s displays. Air traffic control is a fascinating subject and one which we’re sure the public will enjoy learning about and interacting with. In keeping with the training link, the new gallery was designed, built and installed by the current NATS Apprentices and Graduates as part of their development programme – they’ve done a fantastic job.”

Tim Reynolds, Chairman of The National Museum of Computing, said: “This new gallery is a great addition to TNMOC’s history of computing by showing a specific application area and how far it has developed in such a short time. The behind-the-scenes look and hands-on opportunities will certainly appeal to our visitors and will advance our aims in inspiring and enthusing the next generation of engineers and computer scientists.”

Note to Editors

About NATS

NATS is a leading air navigation services specialist, handling 2.3 million flights in 2014/15, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic. NATS provides air traffic control from centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire. NATS also provides air traffic control services at 14 UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow; at Gibraltar Airport and, in a joint venture with Ferrovial, at a number of airport towers in Spain.

Building on its reputation for operational excellence and innovation, NATS also offers aerodrome, data, engineering and consultancy solutions to customers worldwide, including airports, air traffic service providers and Governments. There is more information on the NATS website at

The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.

A pledge by an individual benefactor of £1 million if matched funding is found means that every pound or dollar donated to the Museum will count double. Previous funders of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Capital Partners, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision,, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.

The whole Museum is currently open to the public from 12 noon on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and Private Guided tours are available and bookable online - see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.

For more information, see and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also now available from the iPhone App Store.

Media Contacts

Stephen Fleming for The National Museum of Computing
01635 299116

For the NATS Press Office: tel 01489 615945, email or tweet @natspressoffice

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