Problems with the detection of airplanes force to delay the futuristic control tower of Peinador

If there is a maxim with which you work in the aviation sector, it is that safety always comes first. And if there are doubts that something could go wrong, it stops and is reviewed. This is what is currently happening with the project of the Peinador remote control tower. The civil works of the futuristic infrastructure of Vigo finished months ago. Together with the one in Menorca, it will be the first of its kind in Spain. But neither of the two will do so within the scheduled schedule: the one in the Balearic Islands should already be operational, but it is stopped; and that of Vigo, as he pointed out in an interview with FARO the terminal manager, Ana Molés, should be ready for her takeoff. “If the AESA gives us the certificate and there is no setback, it will be during the winter of 2022-2023,” he assured last March. But ultimately it won’t be like that.

In recent months, and according to sources familiar with the development of the project and also with the Union of Air Traffic Controllers consulted by this newspaper, some deficiencies have been detected that must be polished in order to start up the futuristic air control tower in Vigo. “The performance of the system is not as expected and the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) has to review the project, as well as the suitability of the chosen solution according to the type of air traffic in Peinador,” says an official union spokesperson. .

One of the problems that would have been detected in the testing phase and that AESA has to end up validating would affect something as key for an air traffic controller as is the perfect vision of the planes that take off and land in Peinador. “In some cases the system did not detect them and there were even problems with birds crossing the runway. The system does not recognize them and therefore does not detect them”say knowledgeable sources.

  • Peinador’s virtual tower will control two other airports

From the controllers union they point out precisely that this would be one of the problems that would also be being reviewed. “It is being seen if the requirements for detection and recognition of aircraft by the system are adequate and it is waiting for what the EASA says”, they add. “Right now he is standing pending his report,” they point out.

From Aena, however, they do not talk about the project being stopped. They confirm that the process has slowed down, although they point to other factors. “To obtain certain data it is necessary to do tests with good weather conditions; and the storms in recent weeks have slowed down the process”, explains an official spokesperson.

New technology

From the airport manager they point out that the installer “is making the necessary adjustments to the system based on the results of the different tests carried out”. But he does not speak of failures or problems. “Being a new technology and being a pioneer in Spain, it is being carried out in great detail.” Although they assume that they cannot foresee the date of its start-up, they stress that it will be with “all the security guarantees and all the processes validated and supervised by the AESA”.

“It will be launched with all the air safety guarantees”, they stress from Aena

The civil works have already finished. According to Aena, Now the equipment is being installed in the control room facilities, which is called to replace the current physical tower and with a direct view of the runway, it was built in the old abandoned parking lot of Peinador. From there, air traffic controllers are expected to manage traffic at Vigo airport through various high-definition, 360º screens (like the ones in the image above, at London City airport).

The remote control tower is being created in the old abandoned parking lot of Peinador.

In older, and according to the project, It is also expected that traffic from the other two national airports will end up being controlled from the futuristic room in Vigo. Those of A Coruña and Cuatro Vientos were among the likely ones.

At the beginning of last year, Aena put one of the icing on the cake of the project by installing the support and the 14 video cameras through which the entire flight field is captured from Vigo airport and whose image is transferred to the new control room.

Although the first construction work on the virtual tower at Vigo airport began to take place in 2019, it was not until almost a year later when one of the main contracts for this project was awarded to the FerroNATS-Searidge alliance, companies that were in charge of building the entire technological framework of the Vigo Control Center. From the USCA union they assure that for the moment the controllers have not received the necessary training.

The virtual tower of Menorca is also delayed

The delay of the Vigo remote control tower is not unique. The other one that is being built in Spain, the one in Menorca, has also been delayed. According to the government schedule, it should have come into operation months ago. Currently, and according to the Balearic press, its implementation would be pending the issue of a favorable report by the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency.

The case of the Menorca tower was even taken to the Senate by a Menorcan senator. Civil Aviation replied in December 2022 that it is not running because it continues without authorization and because the training has not yet completed. In addition, the controllers also denounced deficiencies in the system during the testing phase.

Problems with the detection of airplanes force to delay the futuristic control tower of Peinador