TWO executives of the troubled Scottish Government-owned company which controls 11 Scottish airports have stepped down, amidst boardroom turmoil,  it has emerged.

Inglis Lyon, the long-serving managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited is the latest to depart from his role.

The move has come as it emerged that Eric Hollanders has also stepped down from the board of directors of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited which made a loss of £3.357m in year to March, 2022.

It comes amidst previous boardroom upheaval amidst faltering air traffic control centralisation plans deemed 'unsafe' by one union.

Originally from Aberdeen, Mr Lyon who joined HIAL from the Stagecoach bus division in 2005 and due to leave in the summer said: "After 18 years’ service, I’ve reached that time of life when it is time to pass the baton on and give someone the opportunity to hold the keys to what I consider to be the best job in the Highlands and Islands and take HIAL to the next level.”

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Mr Hollanders was appointed by ministers in November, 2019, having worked in the financial industry for 30 years with nine years as chief executive of the Amsterdam-based Bank Mendes Gans. Details of his departure from the board were logged with Companies House in February, but it is understood the decision was made in November.

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HIAL, which runs 11 airports across Highland, Argyll, Western Isles and Northern Isles, as well as Inverness and Dundee Airport has had to deal series of disputes over its air traffic and pay in recent years.

Last year it said it had to scale back its air traffic modernisation plans because of funding challenges.

The state-owned regional airports operator had already abandoned a previous proposal to centralise the service for some of its airports.

It was looking to relocate air traffic work to one "remote site" in Inverness despite fears from the union Prospect that public safety was at risk and would mean the loss of 50 jobs.

The Herald:

Inglis Lyon was quizzed about the modernisation plan in 2021

Proposals for a single remote tower centre - said to be a UK first -were first mooted five years ago as part of HIAL plans to "future-proof" its operations with an estimated £28 million investment over ten to 15 years.

Mr Inglis said February, 2021, that in June, 2020 a detailed review of the air traffic management strategy programme was undertaken by a new HIAL board after previous members resigned.

The new board endorsed the previous decision. He said the project was on schedule on and on budget.

But in January, last year, the company dropped its plan to centralise some of its air traffic control operations which would mean controllers at Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh were to be relocated to a new hub.

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Following discussions with Prospect, HIAL, an amended modernisation proposal which involved controlling traffic on radar centrally, but with local air traffic control remaining in place to have visual contact with aircraft.

HIAL said in September there was now not enough funding available and that it intended to scale back on it.

Last month workers who had been involved in a pay dispute with HIAL that has disrupted lifeline flights to islands accepted a new pay deal.

PCS, Prospect and Unite members had been offered an improved 7% rise. The unions rejected a 5% deal in October.

Their action disrupted services at HIAL since December with fire and rescue, security and admin staff involved.

NHS Western Isles said the pause in action that had come weeks earlier as the offer was considered came too late to rearrange flights for around 500 patients hit by the strikes.

The health board made alternative plans for consultant visits and mainland appointments, after Loganair warned that it would suspend some island flights for six weeks from 17 March due to strike disruption.

Hial managing director, Inglis Lyon, said at the time that the improved pay offer was included in a new business case approved by Transport Scotland.

The Herald:

He said after the pay agreement: "We are sorry that the industrial action and route suspensions have caused considerable disruption for passengers and our customers, particularly for those on our island communities who rely on our airports to support essential and lifeline services."We also apologise for the significant impact the action has had on our airline partners."

But Loganair said that the industrial action would mean that lifeline flights between some Scots islands and Inverness would be suspended from March 17 to at least April 30. The suspension affected flights between Inverness and Stornoway and Benbecula, and from Inverness to Kirkwall and Sumburgh.

Loganair has since said it would resume flight a week earlier than expected on April 24.

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Mr Lyon said of his decision: “I have worked with a fantastic team throughout my time at HIAL. I could not be prouder of my colleagues and their commitment to their communities, particularly during the pandemic when amongst much uncertainty they didn’t miss a beat and lifeline services continued.

“I have been very fortunate to meet and work with superb colleagues across the company, numerous HIAL Board members, government officials and ministers and local community partners.

HIAL chairman Lorna Jack said of Mr Lyon's departure: “We wish Inglis well as he prepares for the next chapter in his life. He leaves a very capable senior management team and the HIAL Board is now focussed on recruiting the next person to lead the organisation.”

Just last month, Mr Lyon was upbeat about the the future saying that returning US tourists will fuel a recovery at Inverness Airport this summer.

He said then that he he was staying because of the quality of life, “stunning" area and “amazing” people.