Scottish regional airports to centralise air traffic control

Scottish regional airports to centralise air traffic control

Highlands and Islands Airports aims to centralise the bulk of its air traffic control operations.

The regional airports operator is set to ‘future proof’ its operations in Scotland with state-of-the-art air traffic management technology at a cost of about £28 million over the next ten to 15 years.

The centralised approach surveillance control scheme involving ‘remote control towers’ will mirror a project in Sweden and transform the organisation’s operations at key airports including Stornoway, Inverness and Dundee.

The board agreed to the move in principle yesterday today and will hold further talks with staff, stakeholder groups and politicians around the implementation of the project.

However, there will be no immediate changes to existing operations, the company which operates 11 Scottish airports said.

The Inverness-based airports operator employs 600 people across the Highlands and Islands and Dundee and handled more than 1.66 million passengers in 2016-17.

No decisions have been made in terms of the location of a proposed operational centre, which will be the first remote tower centre of its kind in the UK.

The new proposals will include airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.

The timescales for the implementation of the project have still to be fully discussed and approved.

Airports at Barra, Tiree, Islay and Campbeltown have different levels of air traffic usage and will not be affected by the changes, according to the company.

Highlands and Islands Airports managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Our overriding priority is and will always be, to deliver safe and secure air navigation services that will keep our airports open for local communities for the long term.

“Given the nature and location of our business and airports, we are already managing a number of challenges. These include staff recruitment and retention, increasing regulation, and increasing pressure on costs.

“Our role is to ensure that the airport network benefits from investment in its long term future, secured through new technology.”

Chairwoman Lorna Jack added: “Increasing traffic demands as well as resultant regulatory changes within the aviation industry means that to do nothing is not an option and we will work with our people and all stakeholder groups to ensure that the proposals work for all involved.

“This is an opportunity to invest in new high-tech skills as well as in new technology and our people will have the opportunity to be involved in delivering the air traffic controllers of the future.”

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