For the last month, the Swedish airport (Örnsköldsvik) has been under remote control. The sky traffic controllers, located 150 kilometres (95 miles) away, manage the aerodrome’s traffic via a system of cameras and sensors. But is it legal ? Following the report that we devoted to this world’s first, an internet user has informed us that this is not permitted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“Sweden, is the first country to violate the Convention of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Annex 11 (...) requires that aerodrome controllers visually acquire, directly, the ‘objects’ that they control.”
So we contacted the ICAO, and this was their reply :
“Aerodrome controllers shall maintain a continuous watch on all flight operations. Watch shall be maintained by visual observation.”
Except that the text is not a rule (Standards and Recommended Practices), per se, but a simple recommendation (Procedures for Air Navigation Services) that the 191 member states of the ICAO can choose whether, or not, to apply.
The problem of remote controlled airports is currently under review by the ICAO, who will soon issue regulations on the subject, applicable from 2018.