John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Watch more than 3,000 flights compete for space on only six runways.
Not that any exasperated air passenger will attempt this exercise, but the next time you’re waiting on a nonexistent plane at Heathrow Airport, think about all the flights that aren’t delayed.
That’s what air traffic-control company NATS hopes you’ll do when watching this trippy visualization. It shows flights zooming in and out of major airports in southeast England over the course of 24 hours. Each airport gets its own neon-hued color, and by the time the viz runs its course it looks like somebody’s spewed glow-in-the-dark Silly String all over Britain. (In a beautiful way, of course.)
“NATS handles over 2 million flights in U.K. airspace every year. Of those, over 1.2 million arrive at or depart from one of the five main London airports,” the company writes. “That's over 3,000 flights every day using just six runways. And 99.8% of flights experience no [air-traffic control] related delay.”
For those who wish to see the totality of the controlled chaos, skip to 1:07 for all simulated air traffic that day. And if you like this kind of thing, check out the NATS visualization of 24 hours of flights over the entire continent.