In 2017, consultancy firm Helios was commissioned to undertake an independent scoping study to examine the options for future air traffic control within HIAL.

As part of a broad brief, the study explored operational resilience and flexibility; recruitment and retention of staff; safety; controlled airspace and surveillance and remote tower technology.

To allow for effective decision making, the study defined the following options:

  • Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Continued Procedural Service (APP) i.e. no Surveillance
  • Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Local Surveillance Service (APS)
  • Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Centralised Surveillance (APS)
  • Controlled Airspace (CAS), Centralised Surveillance (APS) and Remote Towers

The Scoping Study Report detailed the breakdown of the options and detailed the reasoning for the recommendation to proceed with the implementation of Controlled Airspace, Centralised Surveillance and Remote Tower delivery.

A summary of the pros and cons for each option is listed below.


Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Continued Procedural Service (APP) i.e. no Surveillance

For:

  • Easiest and least risky option
  • Likely to be supported by staff
  • Will comply with regulation
  • Enhanced safety, but may not be enough for some airlines

Against:

  • Fails to address most of the key drivers including safety
  • Doesn’t solve recruitment and retention issues
  • Doesn’t address reliance on APP or limited availability of APP training
  • Doesn’t address deferred capital costs for key infrastructure projects
  • Service remains inflexible and environmentally inefficient

This option was discounted as it didn’t address HIAL’s key drivers – to enhance safety and efficiency and deliver sustainable air traffic services into the future.

Whilst controlled airspace would mitigate some safety issues, it does not in itself provide a surveillance solution required to replace reliance on the current Procedural Service, which is becoming increasingly outdated.

Recruitment and retention difficulties, ageing infrastructure and resultant lack of resilience and inflexibility of service provision would remain an issue.


Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Local Surveillance Service (APS)

For:

  • Improves safety and reduces the risk of airborne conflict
  • Environmental benefits (more direct routes)
  • Positive impact on staff as they would not have to relocate
  • Address threat of limited availability of APP training

Against:

  • Fails to fully address all the key drivers
  • Exacerbates the challenge of recruitment and retention as it would require significant additional resource to provide the on-site APS.
  • Involves substantial costs for additional infrastructure and resource.
  • Doesn’t provide the required level of resilience, flexibility or sustainability.
  • Doesn’t address deferred capital costs for key infrastructure projects

This option would allow us to mitigate the safety risk associated with air traffic service provision in uncontrolled airspace without surveillance. However, it was not pursued as the current challenge of recruitment and retention of air traffic controllers would be intensified due to the increased number of dedicated staff required to provide both an aerodrome and approach radar service at each airport.

This option would require a significant investment in new infrastructure and radar systems at most of the airports within scope.

Despite a significant investment in infrastructure and an increase in resource, this option would still fail to deliver some key drivers including improvements in resilience, flexibility and sustainability.  It would not address the challenge of air traffic controller recruitment and retention, particularly at our island airports.

Therefore, this option was discounted as a viable option for delivering sustainable air traffic services to the communities we serve.


Controlled Airspace (CAS) & Centralised Surveillance (APS)

For:

  • Improvements in safety and reduces the risk of airborne conflict
  • Environmental benefits (more direct routes)
  • Addresses threat of limited availability of APP training

Against:

  • Fails to fully address all the key drivers
  • Exacerbates the challenge of recruitment and retention i.e. staff required at both the airports and the centralised APS facility
  • Doesn’t provide the required level of resilience, flexibility or sustainability
  • Most costly option

This option would allow us to mitigate the safety risk associated with air traffic service provision in uncontrolled airspace without surveillance. However, it would require air traffic controllers at two separate locations i.e. at the airports to provide an aerodrome control service and also at a new centralised facility to provide the new approach radar service, effectively doubling the number of controllers that we have today.

Despite a significant investment in infrastructure and an increase in resource, this option would still fail to deliver on some key drivers including improvements in resilience, flexibility and sustainability.  It would not address the challenge of air traffic controller recruitment and retention, particularly at our island airports.

Therefore, this option was discounted as a viable option for delivering sustainable air traffic services to the communities we serve.


Chosen Option – Controlled Airspace (CAS), Centralised Surveillance (APS) and Remote Towers

For:

  • Significant improvements in safety and reduced risk of airborne conflict
  • The only option that offers a long-term solution to the recruitment and retention challenge
  • The only option that offers a long-term increase in resilience, flexibility and sustainability
  • The only option to address risk exposure for out-of-hours operations
  • An initial cost but significant longer-term savings

Against:

  • The most complex and challenging option
  • Requires significant internal resources to implement the programme
  • Impact on staff who will have to relocate

The chosen option, whilst the most complex and challenging, is the only one that offers long-term solutions in terms of resilience and flexibility, both during normal and out-of-hours operations.

It addresses the issue of recruitment and retention of air traffic staff. The combination of controlled airspace, centralised surveillance and the technology employed in remote towers will significantly modernise HIAL’s air traffic management and most importantly, enhance safety.

This option will allow HIAL to deliver sustainable aviation services well into the future and the costs associated with the introduction of the ATMS programme will be recovered by significant savings in the long term.

Our existing air traffic control teams are key to our future service and we will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact of the programme on our staff, whether they choose to relocate or not.