Wishart urges government to halt ATC centralisation

MSP Beatrice Wishart has called on islands minister Paul Wheelhouse to end the controversial plan to centralise air traffic control of Sumburgh Airport to the mainland.

Ms Wishart led a debate in Holyrood on Thursday and said that people in Shetland had “genuine concerns” for safety once control was switched to Inverness, and had expressed frustration at a lack of consultation in the process.

A survey from the Prospect union had shown that 94 per cent of its members were opposed to the remote tower proposals, according to Ms Wishart, while 82 per cent of air traffic controllers said that they would consider leaving Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (Hial) if the plans were to come to fruition.

Transport secretary, Michael Matheson, stressed the need for modernisation of air traffic control services and encouraged Hial to continue to engage with its members as the project develops.

While Ms Wishart agreed that there was a need for modernisation, she argued that remote control towers were “not the only option” available to Hial.

“From the outset, Hial has failed to consult properly with staff members and wider communities, to the point that some air traffic control staff are now actively seeking to leave the organisation.

“That is unacceptable from a government owned body serving the Highlands and Islands.”

Hial last week announced plans to control the airspace around Sumburgh Airport from New Century House in Inverness from 2023.


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Long

    • January 23rd, 2020 18:11

    People should not have to entirely trust to vulnerable electronics. If a situation occurs outside anticipated parameters then electronic control can be useless. Aircraft have landed in the wrong place and landed unexpectedly at Sumburgh. In such circumstance everyone is safer when the situation is within view of a live controller in the airport tower. Such a lookout may also assist aircraft in difficulties, and react to vandalism and other hazardous outbreaks.

  • John Inkster

    • January 24th, 2020 20:31

    They should do away with all that glass windows in the control tower as well as all the windows in control towers all over the world as they are clearly not needed. All can be done by looking at a computer screen. Any body with any sense knows there is no requirement to look in the sky, or on the runway or at the weather to see for yourself what is going on.

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 25th, 2020 17:28

    If HIAL are determined to go ahead with this, perhaps there should be a ‘trial’ period, of say at least a minimum of one year.

    Instead of just installing all the cameras and whatever other gubbins is supposed to make this work, feeding it down the phone line and hoping for the best. Why not pull down the blinds in the tower here and give the local controllers the same monitor screens to look at as they’re intending to use remotely to operate from instead. Meanwhile, also send the data to Inverness, and have them monitor and log on how many occasions and for what duration the data received is either interrupted or of inadequate quality.

    If the system is as resilient as HIAL claim, they have nothing to worry about or hide, the local controllers will have no complaints about using monitors instead of looking out the window, there will have been no data interruptions to Inverness, and any deterioration in data quality will have been minimal.

    However, if serious shortcomings are evident, a controller only needs to raise the blind to regain actual vision and immediately rescue a situation.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • January 26th, 2020 9:07

    “Sumburgh Airport in Shetland has been forced shut this evening because of severe weather.
    Bosses say their communications system has been affected, and that engineers are on the scene working to remedy the situation.” (December 11, 2019)

    Well, that’s OK then. God help us if we need an ambulance flight out of Tingwall. Human stupidity at its best SNP centralisation again!!


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