Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Air traffic controllers seek to oust 'misbehaving' Surat airport director

Mumbai: A day of celebration turned into one of confrontation and controversy instead of spreading cheer. On the `International Day of the Air Traffic Controller’ which was celebrated last week, tempers flew at the Surat air traffic control tower after the airport director allegedly chided and shouted at the controllers who were on duty. On Monday, the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild, a union representing controllers across India, called for the removal of the said airport director.

The incident occurred on October 20 when the said airport director walked into the Surat air traffic control tower (ATC) along with officials from the HR department. The director berated the controllers saying they were showing themselves to be unnecessarily occupied and busy when there is no air traffic, said a complaint letter was sent by the controllers to their senior.

She then asked the controllers whether they knew why she had visited the tower. When the controllers responded negative, the director said she and others were there to wish the controllers on their special day. Then she started clapping loudly and repeatedly shouted, ``Shame on ATC”, the controllers alleged. ``She asked other AAI officials to join her,’’ the letter said. She said she didn’t care if they recorded it all. A controller on the active channel asked her to not to disturb him and other controllers.

The controllers guild in an October 25 letter to the Airports Authority of India chairman said: ``The inexcusable act of disturbing the controllers on duty who are entrusted with the responsibility of safe flight operations is an attempt to disrupt air traffic services.” The union called for an investigation and CCTV footage of the said incident. An aviation source said: `` Under the Aircraft Rules, 1937, Rule 159, the penalty for obstructing a person on duty is Rs 5 lakh.”

J T Radhakrishna, regional executive director, Airport Authority of India said that they’re looking into the matter. TOI contacted the said Surat airport director. ``Nothing happened,’’ she said initially. When asked whether she had seen the complaint sent by the controllers, she said: ``We’re working on it. There is nothing to be reported. This is an internal matter.”

The Guild in its letter pointed out that Surat ATC is short-staffed which has forced the controllers to handle non-air traffic control duties as well such as aerodrome safeguarding, licensing, bird and wildlife hazard management, etc. ``The increased stress is already disturbing their work-life balance, which in itself is a serious concern... Such unethical and unprofessional act by an accountable officer not only has demoralized and demotivated the air traffic controllers but also has left them disturbed to the core," said the guild letter.

26/10/21 Manju V/Times of India

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