Rudy Buktot, president of the Philippine Air Traffic Contoller’s Association of the Philippines [Patca], during their 55th anniversary celebration recently said that the congestion at the NAIA had eased somewhat because some of the local carriers have transferred part of their operations to Clark International Airport.
Aviation growth drags as exodus of air-traffic controllers continues
Last year the Manila Tower handled 280,000 landing and takeoff [runway events], an average of 767 aircraft a day. That is about 63 runway events per hour during a 12-hour peak period, or an average of 33 events per hour for 24 hours, according to the president of an air-traffic association.
More flights could have been handled, but the aviation authorities limited them to not more than 40 events per hour for safety considerations, said Rudy Buktot, president of the Philippine Air Traffic Contoller’s Association of the Philippines [Patca], during their 55th anniversary celebration held recently.
“The International Civil Aviation Organization [Icao] said that 280,000 a year would double in the next five years. But our capacity has not improved. We need to address several related problems, such as airport efficiency, the continued exodus of air-traffic controllers and the need to train more of them,” Buktot stressed. “Presently, there are 700 air controllers nationwide, assisted by some 100 non-ATC at the communication facility.”
He said according to the Icao forecasts, the country needs 1,400 to 1,700 air-traffic controllers in the next five years to cope with the corresponding increase in air traffic.
Buktot noted that the congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) had eased somewhat because some of the local carriers have transferred part of their operations to Clark International Airport.
“What the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines [Caap] is doing is to transfer some airlines to other hubs like Kalibo, Mactan, Clark, because of the increasing number of flights. Hopefully, the planned transfer of the CNS/ATM from the Department of Transportation to the Caap will push through come September,” he added, referring to the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance coupled with the Air Traffic Management system, the next-generation scheme. This system is linked to satellites to speed up the transmission of clear voice and electronic communications between pilots and air controllers.
The ATM part is the enhanced capability of ground air controllers to keep track of hundreds of airplanes in the air.
The new scheme allows them to process tons of data, aided by computers, so aircraft operators would be able to meet their planned departures and arrival. The system also allows pilots to stick to their preferred flight profiles with minimum constraints and without compromising aviation’s high level of safety. This results in less congestion. Buktot said once in operation, several air-traffic control facilities nationwide will be combined in one big operations room at the Caap compound.
The room, filled with banks of radar screens, could accommodate about 180 personnel, although there would be a total of 70 to 80 personnel on duty at every shift.
“Once the new system is turned over to the Caap, the Manila Area Control and Mactan Area Control would be housed in the same operations room, including the Manila, Mactan, Bacolod, Kalibo and Davao Approach Control,” Buktot added.
This arrangement would enable Manila and Mactan and the rest of the other air-traffic control hubs to communicate on the same “hotlines”, without being constrained by bad communication and distance.
According to Buktot, air-traffic controllers constantly talk with each other through the hot lines, but distance and bad communication most often interferes, which give rise to heated arguments and bad blood among them. This happens every day and in the long run, those from the different air-control group band together, giving rise to the “fraternity mentality”, where each group does not necessarily mingle with the other.
This is dangerous since air safety requires the cooperation of each group from the Area Control to the Approach Control and the Manila tower, said Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Eddie V. Monreal, once an airline executive.
Although the Caap expects to have the CNS/ATM by September, Director General Jim C. Sydiongco said it would take more than a year to iron out the kinks. “In the meantime, the old and the new radar systems would run together so that the performance of the old one could be compared with what is seen on the new radar screen. This is called ‘shadowing’, comparing that the mirror images of both old and new radars ‘agree’ with each other.”
“After a year, or maybe more, when the new system is found to have met all the parameters, meaning the aircraft altitude, identification and position are accurate, then the CNS/ATM would be officially in operation,” Sydiongco added.
Meanwhile, Mike Mapanaw, the chief of the Air Traffic Service , said the Caap Training Center (CATC) would continue to train more air-traffic controllers until the required number is met. He said the CATC churns out an average of 44 per year, a small number because of limited instructors, who are air-traffic controllers themselves and therefore have to attend to their duties, as well.
Mapanaw is inviting college graduates to apply at the CATC, who would receive a starting salary of P40,000 per month once they have received their license.
Buktot said the air controllers’ exodus continue, saying three of his colleagues left this year for the Middle East. “We are expecting to see five more of our colleagues leave for Abu Dhabi this year because they could not resist the high salary compared to what we are receiving.”
He added the Abu Dhabi and Qatar governments are doing the recruiting, and some of their agents go to the provinces to recruit more air controllers, who cannot turn down the P200,000 starting salary per month. “And that is for assistant air controller who does not even need to handle a microphone to talk to the pilot.”
He said the air controllers could only ask for more additional benefits, and, hopefully, other forms of compensation so the government could stop the hemorrhaging.
It takes about six months to train a new air controller. They are required to stay in the government for two years to pay for their training before they are allowed to leave the service to seek greener pastures.http://www.businessm...llers-continues/