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Election / Carmichael demands to see report into Kirkwall Airport incident

Aircraft stacked up at Kirkwall airport on Tuesday morning. Photo Gary Robinson

THE LIBERAL Democrats’ election candidate for the Orkney and Shetland seat, Alistair Carmichael, has called on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to release in full a report into the circumstances why a plane with 33 passengers on board was able to leave Kirkwall Airport without air traffic control clearance in April.

In a letter to Carmichael, who contacted the CAA while sitting as the MP for the Northern Isles, the authority said that there had been “no urgent or immediate safety actions” and that “any findings have been addressed to the satisfaction of the CAA”.

Carmichael, however, described the CAA’s “lack of action” as “troubling” and called on the authority’s chief executive Richard Moriarty to release the report in full, “so that we can know what has been said and done”.

Back in April Shetland News revealed how an Edinburgh-bound Loganair plane took off from Kirkwall Airport late on 5 April after air traffic controllers had already gone home as they were working to rule as part of an ongoing pay dispute with their employers.

CAA steps in as row erupts over Loganair flight

Both Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) and airline Loganair insisted that there had been no breach of rules or aircraft safety.

A whistleblower had told Shetland News that HIAL managers instructed a member of staff to go into the air traffic control tower and switch on the aerodrome lights to allow the plane to take off.

At the time, Carmichael expressed his concern at what he had been told and demanded a full investigation as only a thorough probe of events could get to the truth of what happened.

This investigation has now been completed but its final report has not been published.

The Lib Dem candidate said that transparency was the foundation of trust in aviation safety.

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“It is troubling that the CAA have so easily dismissed these serious allegations,” he said.

“The air traffic incident at Kirkwall Airport cannot be simply waved away by saying that their findings have been addressed. The fact that relevant airport staff are not fully satisfied with the outcome is enough on its own to warrant further examination.

“This is not what we should expect from an independent regulator. The CAA’s role is to hold the aviation industry to account in a frank and open way, to ensure that we can have absolute confidence in the safety of our flights. This is as true of Kirkwall or Sumburgh as it is of Heathrow.”

The CAA declined a request by Shetland News to see the report. A spokesman for the agency added: We have conducted a thorough investigation into the incident at Kirkwall Airport on 5 April, and all necessary measures arising out of that investigation have now been acted upon.

“We have previously advised Mr Carmichael on the outcome of the investigation, and will of course provide him with a response to this most recent letter.”

The other four candidates confirmed to be standing in the Northern Isles are David Barnard (Independent), Coilla Drake (Labour), Jenny Fairbairn (Conservatives) and Robert Leslie (SNP).

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