Shetland Islands Council claims to have a grip of operations at Tingwall Airport after a chaotic spell in which air traffic was landing without paying or was being charged the wrong amount.
The council’s infrastructure and services committee noted “the fragmented nature of managerial responsibilities surrounding the operation of the service” and the “significant lack of control at the airport” at a meeting yesterday. But it also heard there were “no significant safety issues” arising from the lapse in management.
The criticism was contained in an internal audit six-monthly report which also stated that the “one key issue related to financial regulations, basis of charges, inconsistency and lack of charges and charge out rates”.
Internal audit executive manager Crawford McIntyre told councillors: “Basically planes were landing and not being charged or were being charged the wrong rates. There’s a new management there now.”
Interim director of infrastructure services Maggie Sandison said a recent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) audit had been “extremely positive” about the management of the airport and that it was on the “path to greater improvements”.
Mrs Sandison took over responsibility for the airport when the team leader left in May. Since January the fireman and the officer in charge had also left.
She said that a new scale of operational charges had been put in place, which meant a slight all-round increase in the cost of operations, while re-fuelling, which was a time-consuming, two-man operation, had gone up more to reflect that.
Part of the problem, Mrs Sandison claimed, was that the entire full-time airport staff had left for new jobs since January and that the transition to a new management team had coincided with difficulties at the airport and the big turnover of permanent staff had contributed to the problems.
She admitted that with “everyone preparing to leave, commitment to maintaining standards” may not have been all that it could.
She added that there had been no compromise in safety at the airport. The “underpinning fire staff” who worked to a rota were still in attendance. Other staff had been extensively trained before taking up their jobs.
Some confusion had possibly been caused by the hand of two departments in airport matters. Planning and management was responsible for drawing up the contract with service operators Directflight, while the management of the airport, flight information and servicing was undertaken by the infrastructure department.