David Learmount/LONDON

A £200 million ($328 million) air traffic control centre planned to be built in Scotland has been delayed by around three years because of a reassessment of the complexity of the task in the wake of serious software problems with the associated Swanwick-based New En Route Centre (NERC). UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS) has, however, just announced handover of the NERC software after months of testing.

The Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre (SCATCC) will not now be operational until at least 2004 as a result of the additional work undertaken since the NATS originally selected a Lockheed Martin-led bid to build and finance the operation at Prestwick.

Plans to build the SCATCC have been controversial since NATS selected the Sky Solutions bid from Lockheed Martin, even though the US aerospace giant was struggling to rectify faults in the associated Swanwick system.

A recent probe by a UK Parliamentary committee recommended that the SCATCC decision be investigated by the National Audit Office. That, and other recommendations, are still being studied by the Government.

Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Malcolm Field told Flight International last year that the Authority had always been sceptical of Sky Solutions' ability to meet an operational date of 2001 for the SCATCC and that it was considering pushing back the start date.

NATS says the further delay results from "a reassessment of the complexity of the task as a result of experience with the NERC". NATS chief executive Bill Semple says that about 85% of SCATCC software will be the same as that for the NERC.

Contract negotiations between Sky Solutions and NATS have dragged on for more than 18 months because, according to Semple, of the complexities inherent in the Government-imposed private finance initiative arrangement, whereby NATS leases the SCATCC from the contractor. Semple says that negotiations are almost complete.

Meanwhile, on 13 May, NATS announced that it has accepted handover from Lockheed Martin of the operating software for the Swanwick-based NERC, which will control en route traffic in the London flight information region. Testing, says Semple, has included operation with major parts of the system simulated as totally failed.

The £350 million centre was due to open in 1996, but has been delayed until at least late 1999.

Semple says that the NERC software has met contract specifications by passing 95% of the 2,000 "shall do" requirements.

Source: Flight International