Liverpool Airport signs new air traffic control deal

A new system for managing aircraft around Liverpool Airport will create greater flexibility for air traffic controllers. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool John Lennon Airport
An air traffic controller at Liverpool John Lennon Airport


Air traffic controllers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) will be trained on a new system that will reduce the need for multiple controllers at times of low demand.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, when a plane comes into land at an airport the pilots will be in contact with a controller in the control tower. They will look after the aircraft while it is taxiing and on the ground.

Other planes may be taking off or in the air flying over the airport in a similar timeframe. The former is known as ‘approach’ and the latter as ‘tower’. Now, in an agreement with Air Navigation Solutions (ANSL), LJLA controllers will see the implementation of a system called Radar in The Tower (RiTT).

RiTT allows approach and tower services to be combined from a single controller working position at times of low demand or in low complexity traffic scenarios. This reduces the need for additional air traffic control officers during these periods, enabling support of other critical activities in the air traffic control unit.

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ANSL will work with the airport’s in-house air navigation services provider, Air Traffic Control Services Limited (ATCSL), in a project that will see a technical assessment of the existing air traffic management equipment, development of operational procedures, and creation of a training plan and materials.

ANSL will also support the engagement with the Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of ATCSL and LJLA. These services will be complemented by a human factors review carried out by ANSL’s human factors specialist, Lucy Kirkland.

ANSL says the combined service delivery also provides air traffic controllers with more optimal levels of air traffic handling during periods of low demand, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Its has operated RiTT at Edinburgh Airport for several years.

Matt Jackson, air traffic services manager at LJLA, said: “The implementation of RiTT at our airport adds flexibility to our air traffic control function which is critical, today more than ever.

“In the longer term, RiTT will allow us to release staff for important projects. ANSL presented a compelling and well thought through solution, and their experience and expertise is exactly what we need to complement our own teams and ensure a swift and efficient implementation.”

The programme is expected to take approximately four months and initially culminate in an operational trial of RiTT operations at Liverpool Airport. Following a successful trial, this concept will be available for implementation for use on a longer-term basis.

Sandy Legget, general manager Air Traffic Services at Edinburgh Airport for ANSL, added: “We quickly adapted our RiTT operation at Edinburgh when traffic levels were seriously impacted by the pandemic.We were able to limit the risk of cross-contamination substantially by reducing the number of staff required in the operations room at any one time.”

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