The DGCA has now started recruiting ATCs after a gap of five years. Says AK Chopra, joint director-general, DGCA, Over 400 ATCs are in the selection process and will gradually be inducted at various airports in the country in three years time.
This will be in addition to the existing 1,300 ATCs in service at present, 40% less than the actual requirement. They supervise air traffic at nearly 87 airports nationwide. The function of an ATC is to clear aircraft onto the runway and for take-off, fitting the flight into a sequence of arriving and departing aircraft at an airport.
A high-level official from the Airports Authority of India adds, Currently, there are only 100 ATCs at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), while the actual requirement is for 300 in Mumbai alone. The existing staff monitors over 200 take-offs and 250 landings each day at CSIA. Though airlines are also struggling to handle the in-house personnel crunch, air safety cannot be ignored at a time when air traffic is growing at 30%. The demand for ATCs is only expected to increase.
Explaining why there has been a delay in the recruitment process, Chopra explains that the unavailability of qualified and trained personnel led to this situation, but with the ongoing selection process, he is hopeful that the number of ATCs will measure up to the capacity additions made by airline companies.
Gujarat polls add to ATCs woes
Officials belonging to Airports Authority of India complain that due to the ongoing Assembly elections in Gujarat, there were nearly 100 unplanned movements by private aircraft and helicopters from Mumbai airport over the past five days. Due to this, controllers had to do extra shifts to handle the extra load in addition to regular aircraft movements at Mumbai Airport.
Some of the senior ATCs had to stay back in office for two consecutive nights due to the frequent aircraft movements at the onset of the Gujarat elections, unavailability of qualified & trained personnel led to ATC shortage, said an official.