FAQ – Airspace and Surveillance Options


As part of the modernisation of the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations, a re-classification of airspace is being explored at airports where this would be appropriate. This will assist with the reduction of risk of airborne conflict and, thereby, increase safety margins.

This project is also influenced by European Union (EU) regulation and United Kingdom (UK) regulatory momentum, which will require Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to introduce controlled airspace at aerodromes that provide an ‘ATC’ service.

Detailed briefings on proposed options for airspace management will be delivered to the relevant units. In line with UK policy, and in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulation, full stakeholder consultation will be undertaken in due course.

Early engagement on Airspace Change Proposals (ACPs) will commence in over the next few months to begin the lengthy ACP process.


In conjunction with the project for re-classification of airspace, the introduction of surveillance methodologies at all in-scope airports within the ATMS programme has been refined. Primary Radar (PSR) and Secondary Radar (SSR or MLAT) feeds will be delivered for each airport, to assist in reducing the risk of airborne conflict and, thereby, increase safety.

Detailed briefings on the delivery programme and methods of operation being considered will be delivered to the relevant units.

Q. Why not deploy Surveillance positions at each unit and avoid centralisation?
A. While dispersed surveillance positions will allow us to mitigate existing operational risk, it will not address the current resilience risk.
Each unit will continue to require dedicated staff who will be unable to support other operations.
Additionally, this would drive an overall increase in staff numbers, with resultant recruitment challenges and additional cost of both surveillance equipment and staffing to the organisation.

Q. The stated intent was for MLAT only operations, why has this changed?
A. The ATMS programme team has carried out significant analysis work on methods of operation (and the types of surveillance that will support them). Technical experts within the current operations have supported this work.
The analysis concluded that MLAT (or any SSR) only operations do not deliver the stated safety objectives for the organisation, within the current regulatory framework.

Q. What are the cost implications of moving away from MLAT only surveillance?
A. Our aim is to deliver surveillance within our projected budget. In order to manage the costs, while still delivering the PSR/SSR operations required, all options for the provision of surveillance feeds, including sourcing existing feeds and HIAL provision are under analysis.

Q. Where will you get the feeds from?
A. There are numerous surveillance feeds throughout the HIAL estate. Survey work is ongoing to identify the optimum feeds available. However, there are other options to obtain surveillance feeds which will be explored.

Q. Will Brexit have any impact on regulations?
A. At present there is no change anticipated. However, we will work with the CAA and Department for Transport (DfT) to monitor any future legislative changes.