8th March 2023 – AGM & National Air Traffic Control System

Derek Barnes – Making the National Air Traffic Control System operational

In the 1980’s the Civil Aviation Authority presented its case to government for a new air traffic control centre and system. The operational date was set in stone as 1996, by which time it is said that the London Air Traffic Control Centre will have reached the end of its life. Ten years later, after investing £760M and still with numerous problems emerging the new system at Swanwick was a long way from working.

In the late 1990’s, DERA were commissioned by the Department for Transport to try to find a way forwards for this key system, whilst maintaining an operational air traffic control for the UK.

This talk will summarise the challenges faced and the technical, procedural and other steps taken by DERA which resulted in the new air traffic control system becoming a success and operational in 2002.

Derek joined the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment in 1976 having completed his PhD in Physics and Computer Science. His early work on packet switching and computer security was formative and lead to national and international standards. Derek then moved into various technical management positions covering areas including signal and image processing and intelligence systems, before he set up the Software Engineering Centre. He later became the Managing Director Sensors & Electronics and Chief Operating Officer for Defence and Technology in what was by now QinetiQ. After retiring, for a number of years Derek was independent Chair of the Fellows & Senior Fellows for DSTL, a Trustee of the Engineering Development Trust and County Commissioner for Scouting.