David Learmount/LONDON

THE UK CIVIL Aviation Authority is expected to decide by the end of the year whether to proceed with plans to build the Prestwick-based Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre (SCATCC). A review of the UK's two-centre air-traffic-management (ATM) policy by the CAA could result in the Scottish centre never being built.

Rejection of the existing National Air Traffic Services (NATS) two-centre strategy would leave UK en route and oceanic ATC under the sole control of the new en route centre (NERC) near Southampton on the UK's south coast.

Until any such recommendation is made, the CAA says, its policy remains that ATC should be a two-centre system, based on the concept that if one fails temporarily, the other can take over.

The reasons behind the review are that "the latest operational and technical" information needs to be taken into account, says the CAA. It also says that, until bids came in under the private finance initiative (PFI) scheme - the Government-approved means of financing SCATCC - "NATS has not had the necessary information to build a complete picture of the costs and benefits of the strategy".

Hughes UK and Lockheed Martin-led consortia presented bids to the CAA earlier this year to finance and build SCATCC and lease the centre back to NATS. The CAA had originally estimated that the SCATCC would cost £230 million ($358 million).

The CAA declines to comment on what the PFI bids revealed, except to say that there has been "a lot of water under the bridge" since the new SCATCC was first mooted. With the new UK parliamentary year about to open, there is renewed speculation over whether the shelved UK ATC privatisation proposals will be made law.

The Department of Transport confirms that the privatisation of the NATS remains Government policy. The CAA admits: "Our only concern is to find a way of financing the equipment which will enable us to provide the service our customers want."

It adds that the Government will not provide finance, and borrowing on the open market is disallowed.




Source: Flight International