HIAL looks to invest £28million in ATM technology

Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL), the regional airport operator, is looking to ‘future proof’ its operations in Scotland with an estimated £28 million investment over the next 10 to 15 years, in state-of-the-art air traffic management technology.

The long-term remote towers and centralised approach surveillance control programme will mirror an already successful project in Sweden, and HIAL believe it will transform the organisation’s operations at key airports including Stornoway, Inverness and Dundee.

The HIAL Board have agreed to move in principle and will now hold further talks with staff, stakeholder groups and politicians around the implementation of the project. There will be no immediate changes to the existing HIAL operations.

“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,” said managing director, Inglis Lyon.

Lyon explained that having already involved air traffic control staff and key stakeholders in a full review of the air traffic management operations by Helios, the Board have agreed in principle with the Helios recommendation to further pursue the remote towers solution.

Lyon added: “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. Our role is to ensure that the airport network benefits from investment in its long term future, secured through new technology.”

No decisions have been regarding the location of the proposed operational centre which will be the first Remote Tower Centre of its kind in the UK.

The new proposals will include HIAL airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula. Timescales for the implementation of the project have yet to be fully discussed and approved.

HIAL chair, Lorna Jack, said: “This is a major investment for the business, but an investment which is 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,” she added.

Jack continued: “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.”

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