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Talks timetable agreed between Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) and Prospect union over proposed air traffic management strategy (ATMS) which would centralise air traffic control operations in Inverness – further talks will take place on air traffic services for Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats airports


By Ian Duncan

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Inverness Airport.
Inverness Airport.

Airport bosses and a union have agreed a timetable for talks over the implementation of the proposed air traffic management strategy (ATMS).

The Prospect union has agreed to suspend all industrial action while these talks continue.

Both parties have been engaged in discussions to seek a mutually agreeable approach for the modernisation of air traffic services at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd's (Hial) airports.

Talks have been constructive with both Hial and Prospect agreeing a middle ground to move the discussions forward.

The discussions will focus on:

• The introduction of a surveillance programme across the Hial network with surveillance services provided for Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Inverness, and Dundee airports from a combined centre in Inverness;

• The phasing out of procedural air traffic control services and the adoption of more modern and widely used techniques which are practiced globally;

• Air traffic services being provided locally at Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Dundee for the duration of the surveillance programme, with air traffic control for Inverness being provided remotely from the combined surveillance centre.

A review of air traffic provision against a scope, agreed by Hial and Prospect, to inform the next steps of the programme. The review to be undertaken at the end of the surveillance programme, or at five years, whichever is soonest.

It has been agreed that further separate talks will take place on air traffic services for Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats airports.

This is a considerable process and any proposal as a result will have significant cost, regulatory and governance hurdles to overcome.

Inglis Lyon, Hial’s managing director, said: “This marks a significant and positive step. We are pleased that Prospect has suspended the industrial action. This will allow the discussions to move forward without further disruption to our passengers and airlines.

“This compromise will help both parties minimise the impact of the air traffic management programme on our communities and colleagues whilst continuing with key elements of the modernisation programme.

"Our airports provide lifeline and essential services and ensuring a safe and resilient air traffic management system that will future proof our airports remain our priority. The work we will undertake over the next few months will help us meet that objective.

“While there is much work to do before we have a final proposal, we are pleased with the progress that has been made. It is important that we have the time and space to continue these constructive talks and develop the proposal.”

David Avery, negotiation officer for Prospect said: “We welcome the decision of the Hial board to work with their staff and communities to find a solution which not only delivers safety improvements but also protects local jobs and services.

“Prospect has always said that it wants to work with Hial to come up with the best way to improve air traffic control services in the Highlands and Islands. This is a good step forward which we hope will eventually form the template for a safer and more effective ATMS while retaining most of the jobs and skills in remote communities.

“On behalf of members, I would like to thank everyone who has supported Prospect members’ campaign to bring about this new approach to air traffic services across Hial."


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