Sunday, March 10, 2019

Code red: Untrained ATC officials handling planes put safety at risk

New Delhi: The Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has said that some of the staff guiding planes at the country’s air traffic control towers were not qualified to do so in a preliminary report on a near miss over Nagpur airspace that was released last month.
The main reason was “handling of aircraft by an untrained/unauthorised radar controller, who was only trained to handle air traffic in the non-radar environment/procedural/planning,” AAIB said, regarding the Nagpur incident.
The AAIB said this wasn’t the first time its inquiries had uncovered the presence of untrained air traffic controllers (ATCOs) guiding flights. On earlier occasions, 19 unauthorised ATCOs were found in Nagpur, 85 in Delhi and 20 in Varanasi.ET has seen a copy of the AAIB report.
“Detection of such a large number of untrained radar controllers guiding flights is a serious concern and should be looked into,” said a government official, who did not want to be identified.
The AAIB, which was formed in 2012 to investigate serious air accidents by the civil aviation ministry, was investigating the near miss between aircraft belonging to IndiGo and Emirates in January last year.
The IndiGo plane at 33,000 feet had been asked to descend to 25,000 feet, bringing it close to the Emirates aircraft that was at 30,000 feet.
The “unauthorised” ATC officer asked IndiGo to descend further despite the traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) sounding on both vessels. Another reason for the Nagpur incident was failure of the radar controller to identify the conflict and take appropriate corrective action, the report said.
It also cited the “casual attitude” of the controller in handling the aircraft and leaving the active channel frequently without a proper handover.
Another finding in the report pointed to possibly inadequate staffing levels. It said controllers were exceeding duty time limits — they are meant to take a 30-minute break after every two hours.
10/03/19 Mihir Mishra/Economic Times