Air traffic control centre in Inverness will manage Isles’ airspace

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Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has announced the latest phase of its air traffic management programme aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of its operations in Scotland.

The airport operator has identified New Century House in Inverness as the location for a new Combined Surveillance Centre which will be the central hub at the heart of the ATM (Air Traffic Management) project.

It is expected the purchase of the building will be concluded shortly.

HIAL’s board has approved the purchase of the building which will require a complete refit to ensure it delivers the requirements for the ATMS (Air Traffic Management System) programme.

The ATMS project, first announced in January 2018, will change the way air traffic services are provided at seven HIAL airports by running activities in a centralised tower and surveillance centre and modernising the way airspace is managed.

The project is a transformational change programme and is the largest of its kind within UK air traffic control.

It will bring together air traffic management at five airports into a single location including HIAL airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway.

There are no planned reductions in staff numbers as a result of the project.

Digital tower technology is proven and currently operating all over the world, including Sweden, Norway and London City Airport in the UK.

Cameras offer air traffic controllers panoramic views of the airfield showing more detail than is possible with the human eye.

The implementation and delivery of the remote tower and surveillance centre is the largest and most complex project HIAL has ever undertaken.

Staff and unions, airport managers and senior HIAL personnel have been involved throughout the process. The Scottish Government and local politicians have also been kept informed.

HIAL’s thorough engagement process continues with meetings with staff, partners, local representatives and MSPs over the next week.

At Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats, the Board has agreed to a recommendation to revise the level of air traffic service from an Air Traffic Control (ATC) service to an Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS), similar to that currently used at HIAL’s airports at Campeltown, Islay, Tiree and Barra.

This decision is primarily based on the volume of air traffic using the airports and reflects industry norms for this type of airport.

The revisions will not be implemented before December 2021 at Benbecula and December 2023 at Wick John O’Groats.

The HIAL Board has also approved bringing the provision of Sumburgh’s radar operations in-house at the new Combined Surveillance Centre (CSC) once the current service provider’s contract ends in 2023.

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.”