About the Project

Smart Peripheral and Remote Airports (SPARA2020) was a Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme project designed to address the challenges facing remote & peripheral airports. These airports are economically vital, providing accessibility & connectivity to residents; but with low traffic volume, strong seasonality challenges and ageing aircrafts, these airports suffer relatively higher costs of operating safely & compliantly and inevitably require state subsidy/intervention. SPARA aimed to maximise revenues at these remote & peripheral airports and increase their self-sufficiency and resilience long-term. 

The Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014-2020 is co-funded by the ERDF, and more generally aims to help remote and peripheral communities on the northern margins of Europe to develop their economic, social and environmental potential. SPARA2020 was designed both to address the regions needs, but also to explore issues that have resonance beyond Northern Europe, and to develop outputs that will deliver enduring benefits after the project concludes.

HITRANS was the lead partner of the project, with other Scottish partners the University of the Highlands and Islands and Robert Gordon University. Swedish partners included Trafikverket (The Swedish Transport Administration), Sundsvall-Timrå Airport and Storuman Municipality, and the Northern Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) of Ireland represented airports such as Donegal and Ireland West (Knock) in the project. Molde University College in Norway and the University of Sydney in Australia were also project partners, adding to the academic insight of the project alongside the above mentioned RGU and UHI. 

The project included work on Innovative Technologies designed to improve airport performance and control cost, involving a close examination of Remote Air Traffic and Remote Security technologies, and a business case for Airport Collaborative Decision Making (lite) as suited to the smaller airport (and budget) context.

Mindful of aviation’s carbon footprint, work strands were developed to foster more sustainable energy use in the sector. Low carbon fuel airport surface access services have been introduced by HITRANS, in partnership with member Councils, Energy Savings Trust and Highlands and Islands Airports, specifically the introduction of electric taxis at Inverness Airport - the first project of its kind in the UK. The business case for offering biofuels to incoming aircraft at the region’s airports was also examined in some detail by Trafikverket, learning from some pioneering work at Karlstad Airport in Sweden.

Based upon the recognition that the performance of many peripheral airports’ scheduled traffic is structurally constrained by their small catchment size, budget was assigned to examining non-aeronautical sources of income and diversification of roles for these facilities. A range of options were examined and best practice has been established across the NPA region and beyond, and some more in depth pilot projects were undertaken. The location selected for these activities were Ireland West (Knock), Donegal, Inverness and Oban. HITRANS worked with the Northern Western Regional Assembly (who led this work package) to conduct Audits of the four airports and identified suitable projects for implementation and learning at Donegal, Oban and Knock Airports. 

The project also examined in some detail the distinct socio-cultural role that airports play in the Northern Periphery and Arctic area, and aimed to refine and improve impact assessment methodologies of remote airports, with a view to better guide future public investment. This included studies led by RGU and UHI's Economic Intelligence Unit at airports in Ireland, Scotland and Sweden. Learning and results can be found in the Outputs and Results section.