India is set to become the world’s third largest aviation market. Airlines are looking to expand and the government is pushing aggressively for more airports for better connectivity. But a key cog in India’s gigantic aeronautical machinery is facing problems: air traffic controllers. It seems the country needs more, and fast.
With a rapid increase in the number of airports in India and increasingly busy skies every year, the current number of air traffic controllers in the country cannot meet the growing needs of the industry.
According to a report by The Hindu, a government official says that to properly comply with DGCA regulatory requirements, the country needs 40% more ATC personnel in 2022 than its current workforce of 3,163.
Next year it will increase further to 5,131, or 60% more than India has today, and in 2024, the country will need 5,428 air traffic controllers (ATCOs), or about 70% more than the current workforce. In fact, the current squad is already 22% below the sanctioned number of 3,871.
According to officials from the Airports Authority of India, the growing shortage of ATC manpower is mainly due to three factors:
- No new posts created in the last 6-7 years
- No recruitment in the past two years due to COVID
- A rapid increase in the number of new airports in recent times
Given the current shortage, the AAI has asked the DGAC to adapt airport requirements according to their workloads. It called for differentiated service schedules for ATCOs for four categories of airports – those handling more than 400 flights per day followed by up to 100, 30 and 10 flights per day.
It’s no surprise that the current batch of Indian ATCOs feel overworked. In 2018, ICAO conducted an audit and recommended that ATCO licensing be moved from the IAA to an independent regulator.
Current rules state that an ATCO cannot work more than 12 hours at a time and must be given a 30-minute break every two hours for busy airports and 45 minutes every 3 hours for less busy airports. frequented. A controller must also benefit from a rest period of 48 hours after each night shift.
But as The Hindu reported earlier this year, many ATCOs at some of India’s busiest airports, such as Delhi, sometimes get their mandatory 30-minute break after 4 instead of 2. In others airports, such as Guwahati, ATCOs do not get the required 48-hour rest period after night duty.
Given the responsibilities on the shoulders of ATCOs and the level of work-related stress, working conditions need an urgent overhaul.
According to reports, several ATCOs in India are overworked. Photo: Getty Images
But it’s not as simple as hiring new talent. India also faces significant constraints in ATC training infrastructure.
The three training centers for ATCO in Prayagraj, Hyderabad and Gondia can accommodate only 264 trainees per year. It also takes about 18 months on average for a new employee to actually start working in an airport tower.
With the rapid increase in air traffic and the proliferation of airports in all corners of the country, current ATC resources are too scattered. The competent authorities have their work cut out for them.
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Source: The Hindu