With burgeoning air traffic, India could soon face a severe shortage of air traffic control officers (ATCOs), a top aviation official said today, asking the Airports Authority of India to take immediate steps to recruit them in large numbers.
Responding to the suggestion by DGCA chief Arun Mishra, AAI Chairman V P Agrawal said the average annual intake of ATCOs was about 250, apart from an almost similar number for communication officers. "We will step up this recruitment process in the coming days," he said.
They were speaking at the opening of the four-day Asia Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Federation of ATC Association here.
Expressing concern over airlines criticising "high airport charges", the AAI chief said the navigation charges in India were "25-30 per cent lower than Europe and China. And yet, the IATA (International Air Transport Association) speaks of high charges."
He said the improvements in air traffic flow management and navigation systems had led to lesser fuel burn for aircraft and has helped airlines save lot of resources.
Referring to the new satellite-based augmentation system GAGAN to be implemented next year, Agrawal said the Indian Air Force has also come forward to cooperate in the flexible use of airspace that would considerably improve air traffic flow over the Indian airspace. "This will be a game-changer," he said.
Terming ATCOs as "unsung heroes of aviation" who kept the skies safe, the DGCA chief said a major challenge facing the aviation sector was its rapid growth which was yet to be matched by developments in infrastructure and manpower.
He said the country would "very soon face severe shortage of ATCOs" and asked AAI to think of innovative ways to produce such professionals to meet the high growth in civil aviation.
Mishra also asked the AAI and other professionals in the field to carry out more studies to facilitate fatigue risk management, pointing towards the "arduous and tiring nature" of their job to keep air travel safe and secure.
The ATCOs not only cover 130 airports across the country, but the vast Indian airspace comprising 9.5 million square kilometres, including the oceanic airspace.