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More fears for Wick airport

By David G Scott

AFTER the recent axing of Edinburgh flights from Wick by Loganair another blow to the county's infrastructure has come in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with more flight cancellations.

Flights by Eastern Airways travelling between Wick John O'Groats Airport and Aberdeen Airport have been suspended for the remainder of March and into April because of "reduced demand resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak".

Wick John O'Groats Airport.
Wick John O'Groats Airport.

Eastern Airways has been updating its website and social media pages daily and it contains full details of the significant impact coronavirus is having on travel.

A spokesperson said all the information is on the company's website and contains a list of "temporary route suspensions between Monday 23 March 2020 and Friday 17 April 2020, of which the Aberdeen-Wick route is one of them".

Andrew Bruce, the former head of Far North Aviation which supplies fuel and other services to aircraft using the airport, also flagged up the negative impact of plans to centralise air traffic control (ATC) at Wick.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) recently announced plans to downgrade ATC at Wick/John O'Groats Airport and at Benbecula.

Mr Bruce that the reduction of ATC to a "flight information service" (Fis) would have "serious implications" concerning the airlines that have daily scheduled passenger flights.

He said that the Fis is currently in use outside of the scheduled airport hours to facilitate Air Ambulance flights and is provided by airport firefighters who have the Fis qualification.

Andrew Bruce has fears about the downgrading of air traffic control at Wick airport.
Andrew Bruce has fears about the downgrading of air traffic control at Wick airport.

"A flight information service does not permit these scheduled passenger inbound aircraft to carry out an instrument approach," he said.

"This means that unless the weather conditions are conducive to allowing visual flight rules to be in force, the aircraft would not be able to land at Wick."

He said it would "severely limit the number of flights that would be able to land at Wick" and make an "additional obstacle for the business community and leisure commuters who are already suffering greatly from the unreliability of airlines services to Wick Airport".

A spokesman for Hial said: "Hial's continued priority is to provide air services. However, we face a number of significant challenges that could affect our ability to continue to deliver our service into the future.

"We require a long-term solution that will address challenges, including staff recruitment and retention.

"From the outset, we have taken the views of our colleagues into account. They indicated Inverness was their preferred option, should relocation be required.

"We appreciate the impact of the programme on individuals and the families, and our focus will be on our colleagues who we shall be consulting directly with to discuss how we can support them with the transition."

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