Fears over safety amid plan to centralise air traffic control at Dundee Airport

A plane taking off at Dundee Airport.
A plane taking off at Dundee Airport.

New fears have been raised about the impact proposed changes to Dundee Airport could have on safety and local jobs.

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has announced it intends to build a £28 million facility that will centralise air traffic control for several airports, including Dundee.

It could mean replacing air traffic control staff in Dundee Airport’s tower with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras sending live video to a control centre based elsewhere in Scotland.

Prospect, the trade union that represents air traffic controllers in Scotland, has expressed fears that such a move would impact on safety, jobs and the local economy.

David Avery, aviation officer with the union, said he had fears about the reliability of communication lines between any central facility and remote airports.

He added: “HIAL is gambling on this and Prospect believes this is gambling with people’s safety.

“Prospect will engage with HIAL to consider the potential impact of any change on staff and protect members’ jobs.”

West End councillor Richard McCready said he wanted assurances that jobs would be protected and remote operations would be safe.

Mr McCready added: “I want Dundee Airport to operate successfully and I want to work with HIAL and Dundee City Council to make it successful but it is important that we are clear about the future of air traffic control in Dundee.”

Despite being operated by HIAL, Dundee Airport remains the property of the city council. A spokeswoman said the local authority was in discussions with the operator about the proposals.

Lorna Jack, chairwoman of HIAL, said: “Increasing traffic demands, as well as resultant regulatory changes within the aviation industry, mean 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.

“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.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The modernisation of air traffic management is essential if air services in the Highlands and Islands are to continue to operate in the future.

“HIAL has been tasked with taking this process forward to find the safest and most sustainable solution to this issue. The minister for transport and the islands has asked HIAL to keep him up to date throughout the process.”