India may have modernised its air traffic management services but lack of adequate manpower is raising major air safety risk, according to an outfit representing AAI employees.
Of the 3,250 sanctioned posts, about 840 posts in the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) wing of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), state-run airport operator and navigational service provider, are lying vacant.
AAI has installed whole lot of new CNS facilities Ė 15 Instrument Landing System ILS, 13 radars, 38 ATS Automation systems, 14 ADS-B, 3 ASMGCS-- since 2009.
However, the increase in number of flights to various airports have stretched the watch hours for the CNS staff deployed there.
The CNS Officer's Guild, in a September 17 letter, appealed to the AAI Board to remove this crisis of manpower shortage in the organisation.
"The CNS executives are overburdened and are under tremendous stress and fatigue. The scarce available manpower is being rotated, combined and/or at times facilities are left unmanned.
"This is highly dangerous and against the interest of aviation safety. It is therefore, our earnest appeal to the HonŅble Board Members of AAI to expedite the creation of additional manpower in CNS Discipline," said Subit Kobiraj, General Secretary the Guild.
The Guild says there is a need for around 1,200 additional personnel.
But, AAI Board has turned down the proposal for creation of 'Interim' additional manpower for CNS discipline, saying that already 840 posts were lying vacant, Kobiraj said.
"There are around 3,250 sanctioned posts in the CNS, of which about 840 have not been filled, despite the fact that new CNS-ATM facilities have been installed at various places in the country.
"The existing manpower had to maintain those facilities. Sometimes some of the facilities are left unattended or combined with other units, accruing air safety hazard," said Kobiraj, adding we have sought Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh's intervention.
The Guild , in their letter to Singh, said the safety of air traffic services need not be emphasised further.
"....Let this be made amply clear that compromise to man and maintain the operationally critical CNS equipment has already led to serious air safety hazards. The sustenance of state-of-the-art CNS infrastructure will crumble, leave aside the envisaged dreams of world class air traffic services," the letter said.
The Guild alleged that many of the CNS and Air Traffic Management (ATM) facilities have been commissioned without considering appropriate CNS manpower requirement.
The ill effects of such disregard towards CNS manpower requirement may not be visible instantly but will surely result in an aviation disaster, it said.
In order to sustain Air Navigation Services in desired manner and to mitigate accruing air safety hazards, additional CNS manpower is most urgently required at all levels - be it at Senior Management level, Supervisory level or at induction level, Kobiraj said in his letter.
The US' Federal Aviation Authority, in its recent audit, had also raised concerns over the various posts lying vacant in key aviation safety areas, including that in the office of the country's civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation.