First remote tower is now live in Estonia
Tartu has become the first airfield in Estonia to have its Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) provided with the remote tower system in Tallinn.
“There’s no doubt this is a historical moment,” said Ivar Värk, the CEO of Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS). “We’re putting into use a remote air traffic services system that was developed here in Estonia with our help, and we’ll be providing AFIS remotely for the first time. There are a handful of such systems around the world, which places us at the forefront of the field.”
An aeronautical equipment certificate was issued for the Tartu remote tower system by the Estonian Transport Administration (ETA) on 15 February 2023. Shadow operations took place prior to the service being offered in full to test the provision of flight information for Tartu from the remote tower centre in Tallinn. The existing tower in Tartu was manned at the same time so that operations could be taken over at any point if needed. As a result of the testing, EANS lodged an application with the ETA on 17 March to launch a permanent AFIS service for Tartu from the remote tower centre in Tallinn, approval for which was granted on 19 April.
Eve Härm, head of the Air Traffic Services and Airports Unit of the Transport Administration, stated that the process of introducing the technical solution of the detachable tower has been a new and exciting challenge for the Transport Board, because such a certification procedure has not been carried out in Estonia before. "It was necessary to pay attention to novel nuances," explained Härm. "The Transport Board has approved the transfer of service provision from a conventional tower to a stand-alone tower, as the readiness for service provision meets the established requirements and the stand-alone tower module is suitable for service provision."
The provision of air traffic services to regional airfields from the remote tower centre in Tallinn forms part of the digitalisation of the Estonian aviation industry. In the future, remote tower technology will enable air traffic services to be provided to multiple airfields simultaneously from one centralised location. This innovative system was developed by Estonian experts in co-operation with Adacel Technologies Limited, a global leader in air traffic management, air traffic simulation and training solutions.
The service experience and quality for end users – pilots – will remain the same, as no changes will be made to the service itself or to radio communication.
Tormi Loide, Head of Tallinn Airport Operations, says providing services with remote tower system will make airport operations more efficient. “We’re delighted that Tartu will be the first regional airport to see air traffic services migrate to a remote tower centre,” he said. “Since air traffic in Tartu has always been overseen by the team at EANS it won’t lead to any changes in our everyday operations, but it will give us the opportunity to get on board with innovations that have never been used in Estonia before.”
The next airfield to have its air traffic services remotely provided from Tallinn will be Kuressaare.
“Now that the digitalisation of Tartu’s airfield has been completed, we can focus on the next step, which is Kuressaare,” Värk explained. “The system is already installed in Kuressaare, so we’re planning to carry out shadow operations there at the end of this year and to transfer services to Tallinn remote tower centre in the first half of 2024.”
The overall objective of EANS is to digitalise every regional airfield in Estonia one step at a time.