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HIAL announces proposals to centralise air traffic control

HIAL’s latest proposals would see unmanned air traffic control towers used at Kirkwall and four other airports.
(Tom O’Brien / www.theorcadianphotos.co.uk)

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) have today announced proposals that will see air traffic control at five airports, including Kirkwall Airport, centralised to Inverness.

Digital tower technology would instead be used at the five airports, which also includes Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness and Stornoway. With this technology being unmanned, the union representing staff, Prospect, has said 60 jobs could be at risk.

HIAL’s plans, which it says will be phased in, would see control centralised to a “Combined Surveillance Centre” at New Century House in Inverness

HIAL has said the changes, which come as part of the latest phase of its controversial air traffic management programme, are aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of its operations in Scotland. HIAL has also said there are no planned reductions in staff numbers as a result of the project.

The union representing staff at the airports, Prospect, says the proposals are “poorly thought-through, have not been consulted on, and will put the long-term future of vital services at risk.

The union has said the plans could take £1.5m of direct employment away from rural and island economies.

Further proposals would also see a review of air traffic services at At Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats, with a new system put in place there, which Prospect says would likely result in a further ten redundancies.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon, said: “The strategic programme decisions made by the Board will move us into the implementation phase of the project and allow detailed operational decisions to be made. 

“The acquisition of a base for the new Combined Surveillance Centre marks a significant next step in the project.

“It will allow us to move forward with planning and procurement of the relevant systems to safely deliver a state of the art air traffic control management system and give additional clarity to colleagues and stakeholders as we deliver this complex and challenging programme.

“Our focus continues to be on aviation service delivery and providing a safe, modern and efficient means of handling aircraft for the regions and the islands in the future.”

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