(Alliance News) - UK air traffic controller National Air Traffic Services on Wednesday said it has hired former Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC CEO Warren East as non-executive chair, after having come under pressure from regulators and airlines over a costly outage back in August.

East takes over the chair on September 1. He succeeds Paul Golby, who has been in post since 2014.

NATS is composed of two main businesses. NATS En Route PLC is the regulated business that provides air traffic management services within UK airspace and the eastern part of the North Atlantic. NATS Services Ltd provides air traffic controller services at UK and overseas airports. It handled 2.2 million flights in the UK in its most recent financial year.

East was chief executive officer of jet engine maker Rolls-Royce from 2015 to 2022. Prior to this, he spent almost 20 years with computer chip designer ARM Holdings PLC, including 12 as CEO.

Last month, an independent review into the August bank holiday air traffic control meltdown in the UK, which affected nearly 750,000 passengers, highlighted a "significant lack of pre-planning". Flights were grounded across UK airports on August 28 last year, after NATS suffered a technical glitch while processing a flight plan.

"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," Golby said, referencing specifically the Covid-19 pandemic.

East commented: "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."

By Tom Waite, Alliance News editor

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