NATCA:Proper mgmt and detailed study mandatory before extending operation hours of TIA

Air Traffic Controller (ATC) of Nepal has informed that it is impractical to operate Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for 21 hours a day at the present moment. Nepal Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) have informed Minister Adhikari that the decision to operate the airport for 21 hours is highly welcomed but without proper management and study, operating the airport in current situation, it won’t provide any positive difference.

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Rabindra Adhikari had previously informed to operate TIA for 21 hours a day for upcoming Tourism Year in 2020 with aim of bringing 1.5 million passengers.

Currently 12 flights can operate under IFR and 24 under VFR but up to 45 flights operate under VFR. NATCA director Umesh Kumar Panthi stated the problems like bad runway condition, technical problems in VHF/VCCS, lack of ATC which will affect in operating the airport for 21 hours and if operated, it will increase financial burden for country.

NATCA also have presented 7 point suggestion report to CAAN Director General Sanjeev Gautam and Minister Adhikari. The report has highlighted problem of lack of ATC at TIA as out of 240 total ATC working around the country 118 ATC are in TIA among which only 66 are active as they are working with fatigue and stress.

ATC are produced by training centers and establishments and for last 3 years, ATC has not been produced. 14 month course of ATC costs around 1 million rupees to country and after being an ATC one needs to first become ATC in airports of rural areas and to become ATC in TIA it would take around 12 years. It is called full rating in the aviation sector. Without rating, one cannot serve in towers of TIA.

Work of ATC is considered to be special and NATCA has requested to stop departure of ATCs by increasing the allowance of night shift ATCs by 3%. Although, salary and allowance of ATC have increased, Rating and Licensing allowance have not increased in last 10 years.

Most ATC shift their service to next as they don’t show interest in Tower. According to CAAN, one must work for 10 years in this sector but most move to other service sector without reaching 10 years’ time frame. Around 10% of 240 ATC have shifted to other attractive sector of CAAN and if they are brought back their won’t be any problem of ATC in TIA but if they are to be brought back, they need to be provided further training of 3-6 months.

One NATCA officials said that they can support the Ministers’ project to operate TIA for 21 hours if CAAN will be able to provide around 90 ATC.  ATC have to be highly alert to provide guidance to pilots. Normally they have to work 6 hours in a shift but may have to work around 10-12 hours in crucial condition. As per international rule, half hour break should be given to those who work 12 hours in unusual circumstances.

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