Air Traffic Controllers Have Christmas Off

By | Category: Travel rumblings

In the words of Corporal Jones, “Don’t Panic.”
This isn’t happening over here, this is happening in Newcastle, NSW in Australia.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, from December 13th until January 10th, there will be no air traffic controllers working at this airport which has about 1 million passengers flying through it per year. (that makes it about the size of Exeter, Doncaster Sheffield or Bournemouth and bigger than Inverness, Durham Tees Valley or Norwich). Apparently at this Newcastle Airport, the air traffic controllers have the weekends off and are replaced by air ground radio operators.
The head of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Bruce Byron, says that safety will not be compromised.
Detailed assessments have been made he said. A robust package of procedures is in place. There might be, but there is still no air traffic controller coverage.
A former head, Dick Smith, is quoted by the SMH as saying that the Christmas period is when flights are at their busiest; which seems the obvious time to have your best skilled people.
Apparently, the Australian Ministry of Defence operates air traffic control at this airport ( don’t ask me why) and it made this decision.
Perception counts for a lot in this world. Whether those air ground radio operators are as skilled as air traffic controllers or not doesn’t matter in the eyes of airline passengers. They expect air traffic controllers to be co-ordinating all flight movements. Their training and skills are appreciated. I would much rather their work rosters were altered so they gave complete coverage when planes are using that airport than by allowing all of them to have a four week holiday. Passengers will feel more comfortable as well and that is what matters.

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