CAA bifurcation ruffles air traffic controllers’ feathers

Updated August 20, 2019

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PM Imran has approved bifurcation of CAA into two divisions on the basis of regulatory functions and airport services.
PM Imran has approved bifurcation of CAA into two divisions on the basis of regulatory functions and airport services.

LAHORE: The bifurcation of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has caused unrest among the air traffic controllers who requested the aviation ministry to take them onboard regarding improvement of service standards and recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved bifurcation of the CAA into two divisions on the basis of regulatory functions and airport services. According to the CAA plan, air navigation services (operation directorate, area control centres) would be placed with regulatory division and aerodrome control service (control tower), pre-flight information unit and ground operation control would be placed with airport services division.

According to the plan, the ATC is also reportedly being divided between the two proposed divisions and air traffic controllers demand that their section should not be separated.

In a letter to the secretary aviation, the Pakistan Air Traffic Controllers Guild (PATCG), which comprises 400 air traffic controllers, says the air traffic control (ATC) is earning 80pc of its overall revenue of the CAA and they should not be ignored regarding its bifurcation process.

“The air traffic controllers, who are a major stakeholders in this segregation, strongly disagree with the division and placement of the ATC functions under separate divisions,” the letter says and recommends that during the bifurcation, the placement of the ATC as a separate entity can achieve the goal of bifurcation and ensure the improved standards of safety and security of flights receiving air traffic control services.

The ICAO also describes and recommends the model of air navigation services (ANS) as separate entity in its documents.

It further says: “ATC, being a specific and specialised job, deals with the safety of the aircraft and security of country in coordination with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)/other agencies and has a very important role in the CAA. The air traffic control is purely a teamwork job. Dividing ATC into parts and placing it under separate heads can lead to reduced efficiency and can result in jeopardising the safety of aircraft.

“Keeping in view the sensitive nature of job of ATC, the strategic location of Pakistan in region and security of the country, the placement of ANS under regulatory division as a whole separate entity is more feasible, viable and highly recommendable.”

The Pakistan Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (PATCG) said that being surrounded by the unfriendly countries in east and west, placement of ANS under any private structure/entity might lead towards a security breach and could result in unsecured and delayed coordination with government agencies.

It said the whole ANS should be placed as a separate entity as one unit having its own financial and administrative powers, for efficiently and safe discharge of duties ICAO recommendation to safely guard the national interest and to save the huge foreign revenue earned in lieu of navigational charges.

“This will resolve the audit objection of the ICAO regarding segregation of services and regulatory along with the strategic and security concerns of the country,” the PATCG suggested.

The Civil Aviation Officers Association Pakistan (COAP) has also written to the CAA director general, asking what steps the government has taken to improve sick units – Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Pasni, Gwadar, Ormara, Panjgur and DI Khan airports rather concerting major revenue earning airports in sick units by imposing wrong policies.

“It should be ensured that no mala fide intention of the government for giving away major earning airports to a Qatari family,” it said and asked as to why the airports located in tourism areas like Skardu, Gilgit, Saidu Sharif, Chitral, Parachinar and Moenjodaro are not being utilised as model airports with enhanced facilities.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2019