Control staff welcome new Prestwick centre


Control staff welcome new Prestwick centre

Air traffic controllers and engineers have welcomed the announcement of the restart of the new Prestwick Air Traffic Control Centre.

On behalf of 300 controllers and engineers at Atlantic House, 150 in Manchester and more than 3,000 nationally, David Luxton, Prospect National Secretary, said: "We fought a vigorous political campaign for over 10 years to have the new ATC centre built at Prestwick. So we are naturally delighted that the Secretary of State is at Prestwick to announce the restart of this project. The government is still the biggest shareholder in National Air Traffic Services and had to be persuaded to enshrine the building of this Centre in the legislation which privatised NATS. Unfortunately, as the only privatised ATC service in the world, NATS’ finances suffered badly in recent years and delayed this project."

The operational case for replacing the current Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre has always been very strong and Alastair Darling’s statement means that funding is now approved. The union hopes that major contracts for the purchase and development of new ATC equipment will be quickly concluded. Control staff are working with equipment which needs to be replaced to handle the rapidly increasing traffic across the large part of UK airspace which this new Centre will control, and to become more ‘interoperable’ with their European ATC colleagues as part of the Single European Sky initiative.

But Luxton warned that commissioning the Centre would involve moving over one hundred staff from the Manchester En-Route Centre. "This won’t be easy and there are some delicate negotiations ahead with management. We may well be looking for support from local government and education authorities in Ayrshire and Scotland.

"Given the government’s full backing we hope there are no more financial problems or false starts to this vital air safety project. Our members will be delighted when it goes into operation because their wishes have always been to provide a safe and even more efficient service to the flying public. The new Centre will allow us to do that into the next decade and beyond."

Jim Eagles, Chair of the local NATS joint Trade Union Committee, said: "This is good news for Ayrshire and great news for the travelling public. We need to see what impact the new equipment will have on members but we are keen to be involved right away. There are many staffing issues to be resolved, not least assisting the relocation of staff from Manchester, and we will be looking to NATS’ management to fulfil assurances on future industrial relations."