FULLY armed Typhoon fighter jets will be allowed make emergency landings at Inverness Airport, in a policy U-turn that has caused concern among locals.
Residents fear it could compromise passenger safety and have a major impact on civilian traffic using the busy terminal.
A policy change at the airport at Dalcross will allow the 1,550mph supersonic state of the art Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth to land at Inverness if an emergency arises.
Previously, military aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth would be allowed to use Inverness in an emergency, but only if they were unarmed.
And if an armed Typhoon was to land at the airport, strict rules mean there would have to be a 600-metre exclusion zone around the weapon which could have a serious knock-on effect on the passenger operation. The airport is run by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), a public corporation wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers.
Inverness MP Drew Hendry has questioned whether the move is a direct result of UK Government defence cuts and RAF base closures.
Aspokesman for HIAL said: “The airport has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding which allows the use of the aerodrome in the unlikely event of an emergency.
“In such a situation, nothing would be done to compromise either passenger services or safety, or the use of the aerodrome for civilian aircraft.”
However, in recorded minutes of the airport safety committee, held last month, Don Mason, apron operations and safety manager and committee chair, indicated disruption could occur.
The minutes read: “DM said that an agreement had been reached with RAF Lossiemouth whereby Inverness Airport would accept armed Typhoon Quick Reaction Aircraft if they needed to divert.
“He said that this was an extremely unlikely scenario, but that it would affect the operation at the airport if it did occur.”
Mr Hendry said: “I will be seeking clarification from the MoD about this at the earliest opportunity.
“The absolute priority must be safety for both civilians and RAF crew.”
Lossiemouth Typhoons form the backbone of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert, and protect the northern sector of the UK, referred to as QRA North.