As air traffic volumes continue to rise, many airports are seeking to increase capacity safely and cost‑effectively. They must typically also invest in modernisation in order to tackle new challenges such as growing volumes of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) traffic. Given these demands on already tight budgets, maintaining effective contingency arrangements can seem like a costly distraction—not least because the conventional approach to contingency is a huge investment in an additional tower, which then cannot handle the full capacity of the main tower or airport operations centre.
This paper presents a safe, cost‑efficient contingency option for air traffic control (ATC) and airport operations, eliminating the need to build, equip and continually upgrade a duplicate secondary tower. When not in active use, a flexible modern contingency tower based on digital tower technology can be used as a training and simulation centre, and as a way to test new technologies and functionality before upgrading the main tower. Elements of the digital tower technology can also act as enhancement tools for the existing main tower—for example, to cover blind spots or to provide digital-binocular capabilities. In other words, rather than simply acting as a limited fallback position when necessary, a modern contingency option can also be used as a full functional replacement whenever convenient—for example, to manage operations without interruption or loss of capacity during system upgrades or tower refurbishment. Moreover, the approach to contingency described in this paper can also be used by airport operations for apron control, providing enhanced situational awareness in the operations centre.