Perhaps I have been around the block too many times, but these "innovations" appear wonderful....... until they fail. The opening argument "comfortable using Zoom" is patently false, I can name innumerable events where that has gone badly. 30 years in law enforcement has clearly soured my cynicism whereby wonderful innovations and ideas have proved unreliable, a hindrance and downright dangerous on occasions. It boils down to "if it ain't broke then don't fix it". Many of these things are put into place for financial considerations but practically are nonsensical.
I think we can be assured that for aviation activities, there will be many levels of backup. Modern aircraft depend on computer technology to fly at all, and they certainly have numerous backup systems built in. I see no reason to be so pessimistic about this.
If the "if it ain't broke" rule was applied, we would still be travelling by biplane from grass strips.
This has been a topic of discussion in the aviation world for several years, looks like it will be tried on one airport. I'm not sure of the wisdom in eliminating on-site controllers. Then again, I'm not sure of the wisdom in eliminating much radio navigation in favor of relying solely upon GPS. But, what do I know? I'm just an older, belt and suspenders type person.
What is the expected benefit of remote control, if the distance between the tower and the airport becomes greater and then this distance has to be filled by electronics? Doesn't seem like very logic ...
Okay, if the current tower has too little capacity and has to be replaced by a larger one, isn't that possible? Moreover, one may wonder whether expanding to 40 - 45 flight movements per hour is desirable in the heart of london .... But who am I?
Not sure about Europe, but here in the US almost 90% of all our airports are uncontrolled. No control tower at all. All they have, if anything at all, is an ASOS service or you can get the wx from Approach before you go in. We did that early in the morning and late at night at many airports in Texas when we flew out of IAH. And that was with a jet.
That having been said, I wouldn't want to go anywhere near ORD or ERW or JFK or any of the other ones without a control tower with a person at the tower and physically at the airport. Just too many variables, not the least of which are tired crew.
One of our Captains was a former USN guy. He was one of the cross-overs that came from ASA to XJT after the merger. He did traps on the old "Lady Lex" in the early '90's when he was training before they retired her. He said the USN tried to do the control of the aircraft via computers or displays instead of moving all those little cutouts around on the table and writing backwards on the glass. He said they tossed the idea almost as soon as they started playing with it. If that's the case on a ship with only a hundred or so planes, what would it be at an airport with over 1,000? Granted that was using tech from a quarter century ago, but even then.
Again, too many variables -- some of which we can't even think of. And the idea of using "smart" AI as one of my former co-workers said not long ago makes me think of HAL and the HAL-9000. The last thing you want as a pilot is for the plane to tell you, "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't let you do that," and then having the airport agree with him!
Jorge Miami, FL
PS: The main issue, as a pilot myself, is the fact this was done at a lowered capacity due to the pandemic. If we ever get to the volume of aircraft and movements we had prior to the pandemic, this may get to be untenable -- especially if we continue to grow commercial aviation at the rate it was growing prior to the pandemic.