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Tynwald Go-Ahead Sought For New Airport Control Tower Building 3 July 2008

Approval for funding for a new Air Traffic Control Tower Building at Isle of Man Airport will be sought at this month’s sitting of Tynwald.

A new control tower is required because the existing control tower, dating from the World War Two era, is struggling to cope, in terms of its age, increased regulatory and Air Traffic Control training requirements, and current health and safety requirements, in addition to increased demands in terms of aircraft movement and new technology.

Minister for Transport David Anderson MHK will this month ask members to vote for spending £6,515,000 on constructing a new control tower. The construction will cost £3.85 million for the 35-metre high building, the avionics for the equipment will cost £1.8 million, with the remaining £0.86 million ancillary costs for professional fees, commissioning, site supervision and contingency provision.

Subject to Tynwald approval, work would start on the scheme next month. The construction programme for the building is anticipated to be 60 weeks, which, subject to the necessary approvals, would see the building completed around November 2009, becoming operational in the first quarter of 2010.

Airport Director Ann Reynolds explained: “The existing control tower is located centrally within the main apron aircraft parking area and while this location has advantages in respect of apron oversightl, it has two fundamental disadvantages.

“First, the building is located closer to the 08 threshold (touchdown point at the western end of the airfield), whereas the majority of traffic uses 26 (eastern end of the airfield). Second, it has no direct view of the 21 threshold (northern touchdown point of the secondary runway), which currently relies on a camera to help ensure that the runway is not obstructed.”

Other serious considerations need to be addressed, such as the requirement to provide a modern working environment which will be fit for purpose in order for the Air Traffic Control and Air Traffic Engineering staff to work effectively and safely. Additional accommodation is needed for associated regulatory requirements, including continued competence training. The only areas available for this at the moment are combined rest/administrative areas, and with increasing numbers of staff, this situation sometimes becomes untenable and makes it difficult to support increased demand from management for robust audited systems to be developed, whilst expecting ATC staff to provide a professional service.

The existing control tower is a solid brick-built building, with no cavity walls and dates from the World War II era. As such, the building has many facets which typify the building style of that time. The Visual Control Room, a late addition to the building, comprises the fifth floor of the structure. The building fabric is in very poor condition and is life expired. It has been adapted over the years on an ‘ad hoc’ basis to serve operational requirements. Some double glazing has been added to operational areas at various stages, though modern sound proofing requirements are not met.

In addition to the problems with the building fabric, it is becoming functionally more difficult to manage, given its increasing age, equipment changes, and increased Controller workload. Operational areas are constrained by the extent of the existing building footprint. Ergonomically the building is inefficient. A new facility, built to current building standards would be much more appropriate in respect of, for example, lift provision, staircase and circulation design.

Mrs Reynolds said: “It is clear that even if the building fabric were fully restored, the operational and space problems would remain. There is, therefore, a strong case for the provision of a new ATC facility built to modern standards. Safety and operational efficiency would be improved and working conditions for Controllers would be greatly enhanced.”

The proposed site for the tower is east of the existing tower, with the height of the new structure being approximately 35 metres. The building will contain:

• aerodrome control
• approach radar control
• avionics equipment room
• avionics equipment workshop
• training room • briefing room
• offices
• main plant
• aeronautical ground lighting (AGL) equipment room
• staff welfare facilities

The avionics equipment is to be procured, installed and commissioned by National Air Traffic Services (NATS), in accordance with the regulatory requirements of the Safety Regulation Group of the Civil Aviation Authority. The equipment is required to manage the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic to and from the Island.

Mrs Reynolds explained: “Following competitive tender, Parkinson Limited was the successful candidate for main contractor. Parkinson was the main contactor for the Airport Departure Lounge extension, a capital project of value £1.54 million which was in May 2007. The company’s performance on that project, completing the work on time and in budget, and its professionalism, communication and proactive approach to working in such difficult circumstances was first class.

“The small amount of additional funding over and above the original budget for the project is attributable to rising costs of hydrocarbons and the price of steel, plus a change in approach to procuring the construction of the tower from that originally anticipated.

“The proposed specialist sub-contractor leads in the field of high-rise slip-form construction, has worked on the Island previously, erecting power station chimneys at Douglas and Peel, and has previously erected Air Traffic Control towers at Newcastle and East Midlands Airport. The erection of the tower is a critical activity and utilising this experience will ensure that quality, safety and programming requirements are met.”

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