Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 14:56 UK

Radio fee 'risks airport future'

Humberside Airport
Humberside Airport has annual profits of 1,300,000

The future viability of Humberside Airport could be threatened as part of proposals to start charging to use radio frequencies, it is claimed.

Currently, airports and ports pay a nominal fee for a radio licence.

Following a survey of its members, the Airport Operators Association said Humberside could see profits cut by nearly 50% because of the new charges.

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom said it would improve efficiency in the way the radio spectrum was used.

Figures passed on from regional airports to the Airport Operators Association (AOA) show if the proposals go-ahead, Humberside Airport, which has an annual operating profit of £1,300,000, would have to pay more than £600,000 a year.

Regional airports are finding it very tough in the recession and they are fighting to keep their airport business viable
Robert Siddall, Airport Operators Association

That would include the fee for all VHF channels and radio navigational aids, such as instrument landing systems and radar.

The current licence fee costs a few hundred pounds, according to the AOA.

Robert Siddall, chief executive of the AOA, said: "Regional airports are finding it very tough in the recession and they are fighting to keep their airport business viable, they are fighting to keep a good range of destinations and we're fighting to keep people in jobs.

"This is a part of a raft of government policy which we think is unnecessary and this particularly is top of the list as far as we're concerned."

Mr Siddall said international agreements governing radio frequency use constrained possible alternative uses for airports.

'Safety implications'

He said: "Larger end of airport operations such as your big jets, your holiday destination aircraft, will continue flying in exactly the same way as they do now, that's critical to safety, but they'll [the airports] have to pay a very large fee so it becomes a tax on safety."

Smaller airstrips would also be affected by the change in policy.

Alan Mortimer, manager of Leven airfield near Beverley, said it would have "tremendous safety implications".

"We can legally fly outside controlled airspace without using radio and what it would mean is instead of moving forward into the 21st Century, we would go back to the mid-20s, where instead of using a radio to show pilots what is happening on the airfield, we will use flags and ground signals," he said.

"If the ground operator is not there they will not get any accurate details on weather conditions and more importantly the position of any other aircraft which they may not be able to see."

In a statement, Ofcom said it would "carefully consider the potential impact the fees will have throughout the sector".

It added: "Our proposals are not finalised, but from the work we have done we are confident that the fees proposed for Humberside will be considerably lower than the speculative figure quoted."



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