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Air traffic controllers (ATC) union Prospect has raised “significant concerns” about proposals to remove air traffic controllers from airports across the Highlands and Islands.

The union is concerned that the move will impact safety, cause job losses and have a major impact on local economies.

Prospect aviation officer in Scotland David Avery said: "As a union we understand that HIAL has a significant challenge in recruiting and retaining controllers, but we see nothing in the report which we believe will address the cause of the issue, which is much more related to pay and conditions.”

Plans for radical changes to guide planes into land and take-off by an operator in a central hub watching using a live video feed from island airfields comes as the company looks at new investment to upgrade ageing infrastructure.

Mr Avery said: “Prospect supports HIALs need to modernise its infrastructure to keep up pace with regulations and that this will require significant investment.

“However, any centralised monitoring system will be dependent on a reliable, resilient and secure communications infrastructure between the mainland and the island which simply does not exist. HIAL are gambling on this, and Prospect believes this is gambling with people's safety.”

He added: "Air Traffic Control provides high quality skilled, highly paid employment in the islands with many controllers recruited and trained locally.

“Centralisation will remove these roles from the islands.”

The union official highlighted the estimated £123 million cost for implementing remote towers is “conservative and with significant risks to implementation.”

He said the airport board backed this option over less costly models with fewer risks because of benefits “which may never be realised.”

He said there is a clear preference amongst staff for maintaining a local provision rather than a central one.

The union said: "HIAL are proposing to completely change the model of air travel we believe that given the level of expenditure this should be subject to public consultation and scrutiny.

“We will be writing to MSP and the Minister for Transport and the Islands seeking a meeting.”

Air traffic control plans “gambling with people's safety” warns union

9 January 2018