GR Direct - Sony - Save up to £300 on selected Bravia OLED & LED TVs
Tuesday 28 May 2024
 12.3°C   SSE Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

News / Island councils call for air traffic control plans to be halted

HIAL employs 55 air traffic controllers.

SHETLAND Islands Council has joined forces with the local authorities in Orkney and the Western Isles to call for plans to centralise air traffic control services to be halted.

The three councils want an islands communities impact assessment to be carried out while the plans are paused.

The local authorities have made the request after government-owned Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) – which operates Sumburgh Airport and ten other airports across the region – decided to press ahead with plans to base air traffic control services in Inverness and operate these remotely.

Scottish Government transport secretary Michael Matheson previously confirmed that an islands impact assessment would be carried out, but only after HIAL had already announced it decision to press ahead with its plans.

HIAL said there are no planned reductions in staff numbers as a result of the project, but Orkney MSP Liam McArthur told the Scottish Parliament recently that “82 per cent of HIAL’s ATC staff have stated that they will leave the organisation should it continue down this path”.

A spokesperson for the island councils said: “All three island councils are of the view that, in line with legislation under the Islands Act, a full islands communities impact assessment should be carried out before any more work is carried out on the centralisation of ATC services.

“Not only would the centralisation of these services lose skilled island jobs, they could also curtail the future development of the island airports.

“Centralisation of services and jobs is entirely contrary to what island authorities have been working towards over the past few years in terms of growing island economies.

“We believe there are other options which should be more fully explored, such as those that HIAL’s own consultants previously highlighted.  In the meantime it is imperative that the centralisation process is halted to assess the true impact this will have on our island communities”.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


The plans will bring together air traffic management at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway into a single location in the coming years, and downgrade the level of air traffic service at Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats.

Due to the amount of air traffic, the Sumburgh, Inverness and Dundee airports will require a ‘two-controller position operation’, as it will not be possible to provide the service from the remote control centre alone, HIAL said.

HIAL explained that this meant they will “require two controller positions, one for aerodrome and one for approach radar” as it cannot be carried out from one combined position.

A spokesperson for the airport operator said on Monday afternoon that the planned changes were part of its strategy of continuing to provide “vital lifeline services” to island communities.

“We require a long-term solution that will address challenges including staff recruitment and retention, provide resilience at our airports, meet impending regulatory requirements and assure air navigation service delivery well into the future.  Our Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) aims to address these challenges.

“HIAL will always do all that it can to ensure the longevity of air services to the islands and has committed to undertaking an island and community impact assessment as part of an ongoing consultative process.

“We continue to maintain open dialogue with our colleagues and stakeholders as we undertake this significant change management process.”

Transport secretary Matheson recently told the Scottish Parliament: “Forthcoming regulatory changes and the general shift in the industry away from more traditional air traffic control procedures mean that doing nothing is not an option.

“The option chosen by HIAL, after very careful consideration, embraces new technology, future proofs operations, improves safety and will benefit the communities served by the airports involved.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.