Our Senior Management Team and the Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) team have been visiting the airports and community stakeholders involved in this programme, engaging with as many people as possible, and taking on board your feedback.

We have included this section to provide you with as much information as possible, and will continue to update the FAQs as the programme develops and we continue our engagement programme.

Q: Why was Inverness chosen for the air traffic management (ATM) Combined Surveillance Centre?

A: Inverness presented the most compelling case and preferred option to support HIAL’s continued delivery of its core activities.

Inverness proved best suited from technical, operational and staffing perspectives. HIAL also took the views of our staff into account and Inverness was identified as the preferred location should relocation be required.

Inverness is centrally located in relation to the other HIAL airports and has direct flights to Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula. It has road and rail connections with Dundee and Wick.

What will the programme mean for air traffic control (ATC) staff?

A: HIAL are very conscious that integrating operations will involve significant personal change for air traffic control staff located at the other six airports.

There will be no compulsory redundancies and we will ensure our staff are given individual support to help make the best choice for them and their personal circumstances.

The programme will present opportunities for staff development.  Training will be provided to ensure staff are fully competent in delivering the new operation.

Q: Your report from Ekos states that Inverness is the most expensive location in terms of average house prices. What kind of support will staff get to relocate?

A: HIAL’s project team is liaising with our air traffic staff on a one–to-one basis to ensure that appropriate and tailored support is provided on an individual basis.   The team is currently working to prepare a relocation package to help staff who wish to transfer. This is an ongoing process and is a priority for us to ensure we make relocation as straightforward as possible.

The package associated with relocation will be developed and agreed in consultation with the trade unions (Prospect & Unite) representing affected staff.

HIAL are exploring options to allow ATC staff to retain their existing base and commute to the ATM Centre in Inverness.  This includes examining shift patterns to accommodate such remote working.

Q: Is the decision on the location of the Combined Surveillance Centre final?

A: The HIAL Board agreed Inverness as the preferred location.  We have undertaken a full options appraisal exercise and engaged with our staff representatives.  The Board are now considering our preferred options for the actual location of the Combined Surveillance Centre.

Q: Where will HIAL get the money to invest in the project?  Will this mean increased costs for air travellers?

A: The HIAL Board will continue to engage with the Scottish Government and other aviation-related funding sources regards the costs involved.

This is a long-term project that we anticipate will take approximately six to eight years to implement.  It will not affect passengers travelling with airlines using HIAL airports.

Q: Has the Transport Minister given his approval for the project?

A: Transport Scotland have given their approval for the programme.

Is this decision purely linked to cost savings/staff cuts?

A: No.  HIAL’s overriding priority is, and always will be, to deliver safe and secure air services that serve our local communities.

HIAL requires a solution that will ease the issues of staff recruitment, retention and provide resilience at our airports.  We have not budgeted for any staff savings.

Q: What will happen to the existing air traffic control towers?

A: Initially, the towers will remain and as the project progresses they will be repurposed or removed in line with business requirements.

Q: What was the consultation and engagement process involved in arriving at the Surveillance Centre location?

A: This decision is part of a process that began in 2016 and HIAL has kept staff, stakeholder groups and politicians updated at every stage.

HIAL’s air traffic control staff and key stakeholders have been fully involved in the two major reports produced in respect of the project to date.

HIAL published the findings of the technical scoping study by aviation consultants Helios in January 2018.  The scoping study published by economic development consultants Ekos in July 2018 involved in-depth HIAL staff surveys and extensive stakeholder input.

The HIAL Board agreed with the Ekos recommendation to locate the Surveillance Centre in Inverness.

We will continue to engage with all staff and stakeholders.  HIAL have committed to use the services of the Consultation Institute to ensure our engagement throughout the programme is of the highest standard.

Q: What will a ‘communities impact assessment’ involve?

A: HIAL has been extremely mindful of the potential effects on communities from the very start of the consultation process. The communities impact assessment will build upon the impact assessment already included in the Ekos report.

We want to do all we can to help communities and will work with relevant local authorities throughout the change process to ensure full consideration and understanding of those involved.

Q: Is the proposed solution the only one available?

A: The HIAL Board consider the solution to be the best option to ‘future-proof’ HIAL operations and deliver a more resilient air traffic management service.  The state-of-the art technical solution will look to enhance that which is already proven in locations around the world.

Q: What are the timescales involved in the project?

A: The programme timescale to deliver the new integrated air traffic management system is estimated at six to eight years.  A phasing programme to integrate each of our sites within that timescale is being finalised.

Q: How involved have HIAL staff been in the process?

A: ATC staff, airport managers and senior HIAL personnel have been involved throughout the process.  This high level of staff engagement will continue.

A crucial element of the latest study was to engage with staff that will be affected through the Surveillance Centre option. An online survey saw 53% of those staff members respond.

HIAL’s highly skilled ATC staff play a vital role.  Each of the ATC units has a nominated ATMS programme representative who is closely involved with the ATMS project team.  In addition, two of our ATC staff will join our ATMS programme team as technical advisors.

We have an ATC staff representative who will sit on the ATMS Project Board alongside union representatives.

Q: Will public consultation be required?

A: Public consultation will be required for any Airspace Change Proposal works or planning consent.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will consider matters of aviation, public safety, construction of the surveillance centre and air space changes.

HIAL will continue the high level of engagement with staff, stakeholder groups, local and national politicians and continue to undertake required consultation via Department of Transport and CAA established procedures.

Q: Is the technology/infrastructure around the identified airports reliable enough to cope with a new system?

A: HIAL’s overriding priority is the delivery of safe and secure air services.  The project team will ensure the technology and the infrastructure required will be in place to support the new navigation systems.

Network connectivity is critical to the success of the programme and work to investigate the existing network infrastructure affecting our airport sites has been completed.  The investigation highlighted the improving position of network infrastucture throughout the Highlands and Islands due in part to the ‘Connected Communities Initiative’.

The proposed air traffic management solution will exceed HIAL’s safety obligations and will be approved by the Regulator prior to delivery into service.

Q: Why are you removing employment opportunities from remote and island locations?

A: The HIAL Board is seeking to implement the new proposals to ‘future-proof’ air service operations across each of the seven airports in order to protect the services that we deliver to the communities we serve.

Whilst there may be a relocation of a number of jobs, HIAL will remain a significant and committed employer in our communities, offering high quality local employment.

We want to offer our air traffic control staff the best opportunities for career progression within the organisation; therefore, the company must modernise its operations.

Q: Is the decision to integrate air traffic control in Inverness at odds with the aims of the Government’s new Islands Bill?

A: HIAL’s approach has been to prioritise air navigation service delivery in the future for all the communities we serve to ensure that vital lifeline links can be protected in the long-term. This is a concerted move to future-proof our island communities.

Q: What are the recruitment challenges that HIAL face?

A: Air traffic control staffing levels have continued to be an issue for HIAL and other UK/ worldwide airports for a number of years.  At some of HIAL’s airports, staffing has had a significant impact on the airport’s ability to maintain normal operations, even during airport opening hours.

Recruitment issues are expected to increase at HIAL as around 16 per cent of the ATC staff are approaching nominal retirement age over the next 10 years.

Q: Why have you brought in a separate ATMS project team?

A: This is a transformational change programme and will be unique within the UK air traffic sphere, as well as being the most complex in HIAL’s history.

It is essential that HIAL have high calibre specialists to ensure a carefully planned and safe introduction of this state-of-the-art technology.

While we have a dedicated project team, our highly skilled air traffic control staff also play a vital role.

Two of our ATC staff will join our ATMS programme team as technical advisors to provide the in-depth experience crucial for the successful delivery of this programme.