Scandinavian Mountains Airport at the border between Sweden and Norway is one of the first airports in the world to pioneer new remote air traffic control technology. Designed to improve safety and cut costs, there will be no physical control tower at the airport. Scandinavian Mountains Airport – without air traffic control tower – a world’s first!
The operators do their work in a low-rise building in Sundsvall some 300 kilometers (186 miles) away. The solution could pave the way for drastic changes to the way smaller airports operate around the world.
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“The idea has been around for a while,” says R. John Hansman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. According to CNN, multiple cameras and sensors will be installed around the airfields and its immediate surroundings. High-definition screens will give operators at the airport’s remote tower 360-degree views of the airport. The sensors, however, will be scaled back to a “225-degree arc”, which will in ways offer a more comprehensive overview than a traditional tower.
Swedish defense company Saab has been trialing remote air traffic control for around a decade, with testing taking place everywhere from Ireland to the US to Australia. “From a tech standpoint we have better surveillance,” Hansman told CNN.
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The remote technology has other advantages as well. Vision is for instance improved at night in adverse conditions, and the operators are able to zoom in and out with ease. “Virtual towers in principle work like any person who works remotely using technology, whether it is education, software, meetings and so on,” said David Gillen, a professor at the University of British Columbia
The terminal at Scandinavian Mountains Airport serves Scandinavia’s largest alpine ski areas, Trysil in Norway and Sälen in Sweden, and is designed to handle four flights simultaneously, from the airlines SAS and BRA (Braathens Regional Airlines). The airfield will open December 22, connecting winter holiday-makers in Scandinavia, the US and the UK with Norway and Sweden’s largest ski resorts.
The flight center at Sundsvall in Central Sweden is already looking after flights from nearby Sundsvall-Timra Airport, Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden and, as of April 2019, Linköping in the south.
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According to The Economist, in Norway, 15 airports will be shutting their towers and transferring operations to remote control rooms. Air traffic control towers, those mighty symbols of aviation dominating airports around the world, might one day disappear from view. “They operate using radar and other sensitive information transfer devices. The move to virtual towers is a relatively small step technically and operationally,” says Gillen.
During the 2019-2020 winter season SAS is going to start direct flights from Copenhagen, Aalborg and London to Scandinavian Mountains Airport. The new airport is only a short distance from around 250 ski slopes in Sweden and Norway. The new services will give snow lovers from Denmark, Southern Sweden and the United Kingdom a totally new way of enjoying Scandinavia’s leading winter sports area.
The services from Denmark and the United Kingdom will operate during the winter season until Easter. “We are delighted that SAS is able to offer the first international flights to the new airport. Short journey times, attractive timetables, combined with fantastic opportunities for skiing and other winter activities in the Swedish and Norwegian mountains are what a lot of people are looking for. We are going to continue to develop our collaboration with SkiStar in order to improve the services we can offer our passengers and make it a whole lot easier to enjoy the Scandinavian winter experience”, says Karl Sandlund, Executive Vice President Commercial, SAS.
Scandinavian Mountains Airport – Without Air Traffic Control Tower, compiled by Tor Kjolberg