India’s air traffic controller: a third of positions left vacant

India has just pumped US$ 50 millions into a new air traffic control tower in New Delhi. Now comes the hard part: finding qualified flight controllers to operate it.
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport New Delhi/Image: Delhi online cityguide
Designed by HOK, the same firm that drafted Apple’s research head- quarters in California, the tower will be operational in about six months. Yet, it may struggle to handle more flights without enough controllers, according to aviation officials.
The nation’s busiest airport needs 600 of the technicians ideally for stable operations, but employs only 360, the officials say.
The world’s fastest-growing major aviation market is grappling witha paucity of traffic controllers to meet growing demand, as many of them shun employment with the state-run Airports Authority of India, where starting monthly salaries can be as low as USS250, and choose monetarily rewarding jobs with private airlines. About a third of India’s planned air traffic controller positions are vacant, the government said last year.”It is a huge safety hazard,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a former commercial pilot and an independent aviation safety consultant based in the Indian city of Chennai. “The air traffic controllers are being flogged in violation of fatigue rules.” The dearth of talent in the world’s second-most populous country is threatening to reach crisis proportions as a slew of budget carriers unveil plans to add hundreds of aircraft to cater to the travel boom fuelled by rising incomes and lower fares.
Connecting smaller town and villages by air
Adding to the challenge is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious programmes to connect smaller towns and villages by air. The situation came to a head when the United States Federal Aviation Administra- tion downgraded India’s aviation safety rating in 2014, concluding the nation couldn’t find enough officials to ensure safe operation of flights.
The US regulator said India’s oversight processes don’t meet global standards. The ranking was restored a year later following some corrective action to address shortcomings. Even so, the air traffic controller shortage will only intensify in the coming years as local carriers buy more planes. Boeing estimates India will need 1,850 aircraft valued at US$265 billion over the next two decades.
The problem is not just limited to India
“There is a huge disconnect between what is required in terms of infrastructure, both physical and manpower, and what is being planned,” said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO for Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation. “We are heading towards a serious infrastructure shortage but choose to ignore reality.”
 The problem is not just limited to India. By 2030, the world will need another 40,000 air traffic controllers to handle flights.
“It is surprising that the ministry of civil aviation hasn’t felt the need for more stringent supervision and review of manpower,” said Jitender Bhargava, a former executive director of flag carrier Air India.”The problemis systemic and unless accountability is introduced, the vicious cycle of shortages will continue.”  
Sources:Bloomberg New Delhi, South China Morning Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *