Former Rolls-Royce chief to chair UK air traffic control provider

The former chief executive of Rolls-Royce is to become chair of under-pressure UK air traffic services provider Nats. 

Warren East takes up his position as non-executive chair on September 1 succeeding Paul Golby, who has been in the role for 10 years.

The change follows an air traffic meltdown last August bank holiday Monday which hit more than 700,000 passengers.

An interim report into the incident by the Civil Aviation Authority last month found that 300,000 people were impacted by cancellations, 95,000 by long delays of over three hours, and a further 300,000 by shorter delays. 

Nats handled 2.24 million flights in the 2022-23 financial year.

East served as chief executive of Rolls-Royce between 2015 and 2022 and prior to this led microprocessor manufacturing, design and software company ARM Holdings.

He said: “Aviation is vital to our society and economy, and the essential infrastructure which Nats provides underpins that important function. 

“The next decade or so brings huge challenge alongside multiple possibilities as the sector faces the necessity of the energy transition together with the opportunities presented by advancing technology. 

“I’m delighted to be joining Nats to work with the board and the Nats team as we navigate through this exciting and crucial period.”

Chief executive Martin Rolfe said: “We very much look forward to working with Warren. His knowledge and insight into the aviation sector, the role of critical UK infrastructure and the experience he has of technology-led transformation will be enormously valuable.”

Golby helped ensure air traffic services continued during Covid-19 and a subsequent return to financial stability in the years since.

He said: “It has been a privilege to serve as chair through some of the most difficult times that Nats and the aviation sector as a whole have been through. 

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone across the company – it is through their tireless efforts that the UK has one of the very best air traffic services in the world.”

Rolfe added: “Paul brought a blend of challenge and stability that the entire company has appreciated enormously. His leadership of the board and strategic guidance has helped us tackle the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic and subsequent rebuilding of the sector.”

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