In basic terms this is a study into not having Air Traffic Controllers based at Manston, but instead at some remote location.
Whilst it stands as an interesting possible development into ATC operations, we do have concern over the ability for remote controllers to make use of visual control, which from our information from former controllers is often vital. It may also have an effect on GA (General Aviation or light aircraft), and would result in less skilled jobs locally being involved – presumably the study will consider those concerns as well as feasibility.
Statement by Osprey Consulting Services:
Osprey has been commissioned by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) to conduct a feasibility study into the use of Remote Tower technologies as part of RSP’s commitment to revive Manston Airport as a successful and profitable airfreight hub, of national significance, with complementary passenger and engineering services.
RSP’s ambitious airport redevelopment proposals see extensive infrastructure investment; this presents a unique opportunity to consider whether Air Traffic Control (ATC) services should be provided from a conventional on-site ATC facility or remotely by a third party.
Manston, which has a rich history as both a military and civil aerodrome, closed in 2014. As part of a long-term commitment to re-open the airport, RSP will make an application to the Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to be granted by the Secretary of State for Transport. This would see Manston re-open as a major air-freight cargo hub with over 10,000 movements per year. An important element of this submission is preparation of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and an Airport Masterplan.
The Osprey study will consider the feasibility of providing both visual control and/or radar services for Manston from a different location. As there are currently no viable ATC facilities at the airport there would appear to be a strong case to consider the provision of remote services. Equally, current and planned deployments of Remote Tower technology at a number of locations is encouraging. Nevertheless, as Rich Connelly, Osprey’s Strategy and Capability Development Director stated:
“The use of Remote Tower technologies is both topical and seductive, but it is important to ensure that from a technological, safety, regulatory and commercial perspective, it is the right solution for Manston. Therefore an important part of the study will be a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis, measuring a range of potential Remote Air Traffic Control solutions against a conventional baseline.”
George Yerrall, Director of RSP, added:
“This study is an important contribution to our rapidly maturing Airport Masterplan. We are actively considering the use of a range of potentially ground-breaking capabilities, including a Remote Tower, to make Manston one of the most modern and efficient airports in the UK. Through the delivery of previous studies, we have grown to greatly value and trust Osprey’s analysis. This study will therefore significantly inform our decision as to how Air Traffic Control services will be delivered at Manston Airport.”