Vow to protect jobs amid fears of centralised air traffic control in Dundee

A union has vowed to fight for local jobs amid fears Dundee’s air traffic control tower at Riverside (above) could be closed.
A union has vowed to fight for local jobs amid fears Dundee’s air traffic control tower at Riverside (above) could be closed.

A union representing air traffic controllers has vowed to protect local jobs amid fears Dundee Airport’s control tower could be put out to pasture.

Managers at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) have announced plans to build a £28 million facility which will centralise traffic control facilities for several HIAL locations.

A site is yet to be decided for the new facility, which will take 10 to 15 years to complete.

The operator declined to comment on whether local jobs would be affected, but said the technology is safely used elsewhere in the world.

However, David Avery, negotiations officer with trade union Prospect, which represents air traffic control workers in Scotland, vowed to fight to ensure local jobs are saved.

He said: “Prospect and its members have received a lengthy report from the company on the feasibility of remote towers.

“We are studying the details of the report and will consult with our members on our next steps.

“Prospect is committed to protecting the jobs of air traffic controllers across Scotland and safeguarding the vital lifeline services they provide to some of the remotest parts of Scotland.”

Remote air traffic control systems replace traditional airport towers with state-of-the-art cameras and sensors, which relay their data to a centralised facility of air traffic controllers who work across multiple airports.

One such facility, created by the Swedish firm Saab, sees 360-degree images of an airport’s runway projected on to wall-to-wall TV screens, giving controllers a view similar to that from the tower itself.

Inglis Lyon, managing director of HIAL, said the decision to begin work on a remote facility was “significant”. He added: “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 long-term.

“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.”

As well as Dundee, other airports set to be affected by HIAL’s proposal include Sumburgh, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.