Air traffic controllers shortage to drag SL air traffic movement to standstill
The Air Traffic Controllers’ Association of Sri Lanka (SLATCA) has raised concerns over a potential standstill of air traffic movements, owing to the increasing number of controllers resigning from their posts.
Issuing a statement in this regard, SLATCA noted that 19 air traffic controllers have resigned from their posts within a span of a year.
“If four or five more controllers leave, air traffic movements will come to a standstill even without a strike”, SLATCA President, Thisara Amarananda said in this regard, emphasisng that such a standstill would a pose threat to the Sri Lanka’s road to recovery.
“The President of Sri Lanka Mr. Wickremesinghe outlined the importance of exports, foreign investments, and tourist arrivals in a bid to strengthen our economy, all of which requires the service of these Air Traffic Controllers”, he said in this regard.
Amarananda further accused subject Minister Nimal Siripala de Siva of not making any efforts towards the retention of air traffic controllers, adding that although a retention plan was drawn up for a period of three years by the Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka (AASL), in consultation with SLATCA, it is yet to be implemented.
The SLATCA President attributed this delay in implementation to the Ports Minister’s refusal to approve the retention plan.
He further noted that Minister Siripala de Silva had also proposed that the standard of require educational qualifications for the role of an air traffic controller be brought down.
In response to the ministers statement he said “Lowering the education qualifications of candidates to one of the most responsible jobs in Sri Lanka may serve the self-centered appetite if politicians, but in no way remedies the ailing ATC community”.
Thus, SLATCA warned that although several upward trends are currently seen within the island’s deteriorated economy, such as the increased number of tourists recently reported by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority), the inattentiveness displayed by the government remains a threat to this development.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that a comprehensive programme will be implemented to train pilots and air traffic controllers at a recent meeting at the Civil Aviation Authority.
He also said that the relevant training programmes should be expedited. “Seeking means to fulfill the required number of flying hours for pilots is our main challenge. Sri Lankan Airlines has 23 aircraft.
However, that is not enough to cover the requirement. There are new airlines in Sri Lanka at present. We must extend our maximum possible assistance to these new airlines.
“I do not stand for any monopoly of Sri Lankan Airlines. These services should be expanded. It is better to have at least 10 more new airlines to facilitate air travel between destinations such as the Maldives, Dubai or Chennai.
If we have airlines for short distance flying, we can also fulfill this training requirement for pilots and to enable them to cover the required number of flying hours, he added.