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Inverness plan for air traffic control hub "not fit" claims union

By Neil MacPhail

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PLANS to relocate air traffic controllers to a central Inverness base will cost Scottish island communities £18 million, according to a new study.

Carried out for the Prospect union, which represents most air traffic controllers set to be affected, it says the plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) are “not fit for purpose”.

The study by procurement expert Dave Watson found Hial itself has identified the plan as “the most difficult and risky to implement” and said implementation costs have almost doubled, to £33.5 million.

It also raised safety and operational concerns, including questions of cyber-security, weather assessment and impact on human performance.

Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “Prospect and its members in Hial are not against reasoned changes to the technology and the operating procedures of air traffic control in the Highlands and Islands, but these plans are not fit for purpose. It is beyond belief that Hial continue to press on with these plans, backed by the Scottish Government, when the risks and costs are so plain to see. And that’s before we take Covid-19 into account.

“The plans were already questionable but with the aviation industry in crisis the risks are even higher and must be rethought.”

A Hial spokesman said: “Given that doing nothing is not an option (a position agreed by Prospect) the chosen approach is the only option that offers long-term solutions in terms of resilience and flexibility, both during normal and out-of-hours operations. Our position is clear and despite continued dialogue with the union, we are compelled to challenge many of the points made in this report presented by Prospect.”

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