Air Traffic Incident (Kirkwall Airport)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

3. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd regarding the incident on 5 April 2019 when a plane left Kirkwall airport without air traffic control clearance. (S5O-03146)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Loganair and HIAL advised us that an aircraft left Kirkwall on 5 April without an ATC service being provided, even though the request to start the engines was made before the airport closed. To avoid inconveniencing passengers, a decision was made by Loganair and the captain, in agreement with HIAL management, to depart without ATC provision—but with the airport fire service in attendance—having satisfied themselves that it was safe to do so. The flight operated normally with ATC cover after departing Kirkwall.

Operating at airports without ATC cover is not uncommon for Loganair’s pilots, but it is uncommon at Kirkwall, which is why Loganair notified the Civil Aviation Authority.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

It is extremely concerning that the flight left Kirkwall without ATC cover. If the argument is that that posed no danger, it begs the question why the Civil Aviation Authority demands air traffic control presence at all.

Can the cabinet secretary assure me that that will never happen again and that people will not be put at risk in that way?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

ATC cover at Kirkwall airport is not part of its licensing provision. Fire cover is part of its licensing provision in order to comply with Civil Aviation Authority regulations. The member will recognise that there is a standard set of regulations for undertaking a flight of this nature, where ATC cover is not required. On this occasion, HIAL and Loganair went through that procedure and applied it to this particular flight. As they are required to, they reported it to the Civil Aviation Authority to consider whether they applied all the appropriate regulations for dealing with such matters.