Airport Staff Shortages Could Reduce Flying Hours This Summer

Panel members at Wednesday's Transport User Forum

Panel members at Wednesday’s Transport User Forum

St Mary’s Airport could be forced to reduce flying hours this summer because of staffing problems.

One of their air traffic controllers leaves this week and the Council has not found anyone to take her place.

Scilly Today reporter Andy Hargreaves questioned Council Chief Executive Theo Leisjer about plans for continuity of airport services at the Transport User Forum in the Town Hall yesterday.

Theo said the community is aware that a number of air traffic controllers are leaving and it’s been “extremely hard” to find any new staff.

The Council operates the airport, but Mr Leisjer told the meeting that he could not guarantee that the facility would stay open for its current operating hours during the season.

The problem is that our airport operates what’s called ‘approach control.’ There are only three other similar airports in the country and air traffic controllers with those skills are “like gold dust,” says Theo.

He says the Council is going to address the shortage by attempting to train locals. They’ve found people who want to do the job but they won’t be qualified for a while.

The shortage of ATC staff means that Sunday flying is also off the table.

Theo said more controllers would be needed to open the airport longer. He said there are strict working hours rules and to open seven days they’d need to increase staff.

There’s close scrutiny of St Mary’s Airport by the regulator, currently. The CAA placed the facility under ‘special attention’ in November, when they became aware of staff concerns over the internal restructuring of the airport’s operations.

The changes were put in place as part of the Council’s redevelopment and cost-cutting exercise.

But the Council has actually increased airport costs, as they’ve had to bring in agency ATC personnel to fill staff gaps.

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