According to local news channels, Pakistani air traffic controllers had planned to go on strike today. So far, no reports of disruption in Pakistani air space traffic.
A delegation representing air traffic controllers has reached headquarters of Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to hold talks with Director General CAA Capt. Nadeem Khan Yousafzai.
The air traffic controllers are complaining against outdated equipment, salary package and duty hours.
Main complaint is from controllers who control airliners overflying Pakistani air space, according to news sources. CAA earns significant revenue from airliners that overfly Pakistani air space.
ATCs to raise safety alarm today
MONDAY, 02 APRIL 2012
KARACHI:[/B] All domestic airlines including Pakistan International Airlines and foreign carriers over flying Pakistani air space will have trouble finding someone on the airwaves to guide them through from Monday morning.
The air traffic controllers have informed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that faulty radar, communication systems and over stretched working hours are badly affecting their skills and capability to handle air traffic and they will voluntarily leave the positions of control before something happens.
A spokesman for Air Traffic Controllers Guild (ATCG), representing more than 300 ATCs across Pakistan said that the airspace of Pakistan is no more safe by dint of surging safety and efficiency challenges, as increasing density of air traffic has put in place many dangers like near miss, route conflict and possibly mid air collisions.
He said that in Karachi sector air traffic coming from the West part of the country rises up to maximum 35 to 45 aircrafts at a time on one frequency, therefore, Karachi ATC sectors (Radar and Non-radar) have become overloaded by 10 and 67 times respectively in a week, which has increased the risks of mid air collision of air planes.
A probability of midair collision between two aircrafts following International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards is one in 100 million opportunities (1/100,000,000th). And in Pakistan an incident of loss of separation occurs every 30,000 flights on an average in comparison to USA, Canada and Europe where it occurs after 150,000 flights, on an average.
"So one can imagine where we stand, as rate of near collision/air miss reflects how close we are to a midair collision in our air space," spokesman said, adding that all countries of the world follow the same ICAO standards for air traffic control operations to achieve the uniform standard of safety throughout the world. He said that it is a decade old issue and we have been continuously trying to make the management understand the complexity of the air traffic control but all our cries have so far fallen on deaf ears.
As per the orders of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in its circular 241-AN/145 titled "Human Factors Digest No.8: Human Factors in Air Traffic Control" categorised classes of errors occur in ATC, so that appropriate procedures to remove them can be devised by the respective aviation authorities, he said.
"An important live ware issue is that of controllers becoming tired or fatigued, because when people are over-tired, their judgment could be impaired, and the safety and efficiency of the ATC service could be put at risk," the circular stated, adding that this is unacceptable situation because ATCs must not be over-tired for better safety measures.
Similarly, it further states, "staffing levels have to make provision for adequate rest breaks during each shift. The maximum recommended continuous work period without a break is normally about two hours, especially under high traffic demands. Even if traffic demands have been light and the controller has been under-loaded and bored, rest breaks are still needed." It is important that the controller's workload should not exceed a certain level known as Heavy Load Threshold (HLT), as beyond this level the controller will be unable to handle the air traffic safely.
Domestic airlines including PIA have been incurring huge financial losses in terms of extra fuel consumption due to inability of Air Traffic Controllers to give full concentration to domestic traffic due to over loaded controllers and substandard navigational equipment. The ATCOs of Civil Aviation Authority have been highlighting the hazards to flight safety due to over burdened controllers who are denied rest between continuous duty spans and other related matters, so far the PCAA has not given any importance resulting in ATCOs prioritising the matters as per flight safety in Pakistan air space.
As per International Civil Aviation Organization, the ATCOs would be given a rest of at-least 2 hours after every 2 working hours during night and 1 hour rest after 4 hour duty during the day, as per sources the ATCOs in Pakistan are working straight for 10-12 hours without any break while many of basic facilities such as transport, refreshment and even drinking water is not available.
Sources said the loss of fuel, due to ATCOs inability to work out route shortenings etc, was also endorsed by the office of Chief Pilot Coordination, PIA Flight Operation, that PIA is facing additional losses due to go slow by the ATCs of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), as only in one day they lost Rs 3.1million on extra fuel consumption. He said in PIA one of its memos stated that "On just one Saturday we burnt additional 20320Kgs of fuel (whose approximate cost was Rs 2 million) only for unnecessary holding of 42 national and international flights at Karachi and Lahore airports. And also burnt additional 7940Kgs of fuel (whose approximate cost was Rs 0.79 million) due to the denial of direct routes to 15 domestic flights between Karachi-Islamabad, Karachi-Quetta-Islamabad sector."
Given the fact that International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts tremendous transit air traffic growth rise in the Asia Pacific and Middle East region by 2025, Pakistan's airspace would be highly congested because the country is strategically located in the region where major air traffic routes over-flown through its airspace from/to Europe and Middle/Fare East. This congestion will lead to massive air traffic block and unnecessary holdings of domestic planes, consequently fuel consumption would increase massively.
The role of ATCs is very important because they would help airlines reduce their fuel consumption while managing heavy traffic at the same time. It is no wonder that airspace congestion and the workload of ATCs has been increased manifold in the last 5 to 6 years, which is to have massive increase in future as well. "Keeping in view all this previous and forecasted air traffic increase, it has become imperative for the CAA to devise a strategy to overcome the airspace congestion and workload issues in order to enhance safety, capacity, and efficiency in the airspace including replacement of Communication Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) infrastructure," said the spokesman.