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Transport / HIAL looking to buy simulator for air traffic control training

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

HIGHLANDS and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) is seeking to buy a simulator machine to deliver training for its new remote air traffic control project.

In particular the air traffic control simulator will be used to train staff as HIAL takes approach radar services at Sumburgh Airport in-house.

The Sumburgh radar service, which helps aircraft to land, will be transitioned into a “contingency facility” by October next year ahead of eventually relocating to Inverness in early 2023.

The simulator will also deliver “surveillance-based training and airspace modelling” for other HIAL airports.

Government-owned HIAL, which operates Sumburgh Airport and ten other airports across the region, has decided to press ahead with controversial plans to base air traffic control services in Inverness and operate these remotely.

There are concerns over the proposals from politicians, local authorities and unions in a number of areas such as the effect on local employment.

A contract for the simulator purchase said the machine would be used in a “research and development context which will enable new procedures to be worked up and tested, permit camera location positions to be modelled, demonstrate the ability to use multi-runway operations utilising the 3D tower simulation, and testing of radar in the tower procedures”.

A spokesperson for HIAL said: “The air traffic simulator will help develop radar approach procedures and the delivery of training as we move towards the implementation of approach radar services at Sumburgh airport in Shetland.

“Additionally, it will allow us to deliver surveillance-based training and airspace modelling at other HIAL airports.

“Prior to putting the contract to tender we worked with HIAL colleagues to identify the requirements needed to develop a full training programme for air traffic control staff. The simulator’s role in remote tower delivery will be determined as the project progresses.”

The current contract for Sumburgh approach radar is held by National Air Traffic Services Ltd (NATS) and it was extended for two years to ensure continuity of service while the transition is completed.