Mumbai Air Traffic Control hit by manpower shortage

Existing staff overburdened, could lead to a security threat, say officials

Written by Neha Kulkarni | Mumbai | Updated: March 23, 2017 2:34:37 am

THE COMMUNICATION Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) of the Air Traffic Control (ATC), Mumbai lacks more than half the manpower required to operate the new air traffic surveillance systems in use at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport ( CSIA), Mumbai, senior officials said. The absence of staff increases the workload on the present working staff thus increasing their required hours of work-shift every day.

The CNS staff handles radar communication, records messages between the pilots and control room and is in charge of the aircraft operations beyond the airport limits. Only 265 members handle operations to be ideally carried out by a strength of 567 staff, senior CNS members told the Indian Express.

“ We have a strength of 265 members as opposed to an ideal requirement of 567 and above. Last year, we had hired seventy people from which 30 were transferred. Due to the staff crunch, we are often forced to expect each member of our staff to work for time schedules exceeding 20 hours of shift hours in a day,” P Mandal, General Manager, CNS department, ATC said.

Between 2016 and this year, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) department received new technologies in the CNS as per international standards to improve aircraft communication. The staff complain against insufficient strength to manage the technologies, which could prove a huge security threat.

“The technologies namely— automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADSB) —and Electronic flight system (EFS) supplement the radars in tracing the location of an aircraft quicker. A lack of adequate staff for particular job positions hint at multiple works being carried out by lesser staff. This leads to a possibility of missing out on important messages if relayed on the radar by staff if thy are overworked. We thus need more trained people in full strength to be able to handle new technology efficiently,” a senior CNS official added.

Poor upgradation of equipment also increases the staff for maintaining the equipment, officials complained. More than 60% of the equipment used are at least 12-15 years old and need revision.

“Technologies for recording communication, landing system equipment have crossed their age limits. When the equipment becomes old, we try working on its repair or using its back-up. However, better technology needs to be in place for which we require expert staff,” Mandal added.

The ATC Mumbai witnesses 310 members in the staff while they expect an addition of 40 members in their staff by year end. However, training the individuals to the required technology itself takes time, officials said.

“Any new person hired will need to undergo at least four years of training and on-job experience to be able to understand radar communication and traffic signalling better. Upon that, as technology changes are imminent, more development calls for a need of training more individuals, “ Rajiv Saxena, General Manager, ATC said.

neha.kulkarni@expressindia.com

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