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IFATCA raises alarm over dearth of ATCs

By  Kenneth Ehigiator
The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) has raised an alarm over the dearth of air traffic controllers across the world, noting that as many as 10 per cent of the work force would retire in the next two years.

IFATCA warned of safety risks associated with increasing overtime and extending the retirement age at its 49th congress held penultimate week.

The conference approved several policies that are designed to enhance safety and efficiency, in areas including go_around procedures during visual approaches; incorrect flight identification, route clearance requirements, reducing voice communication workload and the use of level restrictions during departures and arrivals.

During the IFATCA Conference in April, the South African Controllers Association reported that although much progress had been made in respect of preparations for the World Cup, there were still staff shortages on some sectors and airports.

According to the association, this will have an influence on the forecast increase of traffic planned during the forthcoming Soccer World Cup in June.
It said the planned recruitment of new controllers did not bring the expected relief, adding that training had now been stopped to allow consolidation time to existing staff.

The group also noted that a plan has been developed to give 100% or more capacity for short periods of  two to three hours when the peaks were predicted, but noted that there will be a lack of capacity at some times during the rest of the day.

“The number of en route sectors and approach sectors open will depend on the staff available on each day,” the group said.  It stated that controllers were expecting 30% more traffic during that period, but assured safety will not be compromised.    “Staff shortages, in other words, are likely to result in delays to flights during the event,” the group noted.

On the positive side, said the association, many improvements have been made to the ATM systems, including upgrades to AIM systems, a Surface Movement radar (SMR) in Cape Town that will help in low visibility operations.
“But the Johannesburg SMR is not operational yet and is unlikely to be operational before the event.

A new air traffic flow management (ATFM) Tool system is due to be functioning in the early part of May 2010,” it noted.


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