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Hebrides News


Plans for unmanned air traffic control towers at island airports have moved a step closer.

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) has agreed in principle to replace skilled air traffic controllers with a computerised remote system.

Multiple airports in the region - including Stornoway and Benbecula - could be operated from a single location. Barra airport would not be affected by th epresent proposals.

No decision has been made over the central hub though Inverness is likely to be a top option.

Live video feed from high definition cameras dotted around the island airports would track arriving and departing planes. The images coupled with surveillance sensors and radar data would be transmitted in real time on a wide video screen hundreds of miles away.

Towers staffed by human operators in many island and Highland airports will become obsolete over the next ten to fifteen years as a result of Hial’s proposed £28 million investment in new digital art air traffic management technology.

Managing director, Inglis Lyon, said the decision was significant for the business:

“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.”

Hial chair, Lorna Jack, said the major investment was “required to ensure that we do what we are here to do which is to keep people flying, to ensure the long-term future for the business and our people and to continue to deliver new opportunities for the people of the Highlands and Islands and Tayside to connect with new locations around the globe.

“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.”


Unmanned air traffic control towers proposed for island airports  

8 January 2018