Plans to centralise air traffic control services announced

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has identified New Century House in Inverness as the location for a combined surveillance centre.

Plans to centralise air traffic control services at a new hub in Inverness have been confirmed by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).

The airport operator, which said no jobs would be lost, has identified New Century House as the location for a combined surveillance centre.

The purchase of the building – which will need an entire refit – has been approved by HIAL’s board and is expected to be concluded shortly.

Inglis Lyon, HIAL managing director, said: “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.”

The project, first revealed in January 2018, will change the way air traffic services are provided at seven HIAL airports.

Activities will be run in a centralised tower and surveillance centre, which the company believes will modernise the way airspace is managed.

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

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

Trade union Prospect has been critical of the move, accusing HIAL of a lack of consultation and transparency during the process.

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: “The proposals to downgrade services at Wick and Benbecula are staggering.

“They fly against the government’s own recently published island plan which seeks to protect and improve services and employment in island communities.

“It is inconceivable that such far-reaching changes can be brought in with the paltry level of consultation and transparency we have seen.

“For a government-owned company to treat its workers, customers, and local communities in this way is absolutely staggering.

“Prospect will not stand by and allow HIAL to downgrade Scotland’s islands with this threat to their air services and their economy.”