Manpower Shortage Hits Aviation Sector

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By ANTHONY AWUNOR, Lagos –

Looming mass terminal retirement of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) next year is expected to create dearth of air traffic controllers (ATC) in the aviation sector.

Director of operations in the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Gabriel Akpen, made the observation while speaking at the 46th Annual General Meeting AGM/Conference held by the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital at the weekend.

Akpen said that NAMA was expecting the retirement of about 27 ATCOs who were mostly trained radar controllers and also occupying top management positions in the directorate.

According to the director, the implication is that another 27 ATCOs would be moved to take their places after retirement which would eventually reduce the number of fully active field ATCOs by 27.

While stating that much has not been done to address the space that would be created over the years, Akpen warned that a lot had to be done to manage the issue at hand come 2018.

Akpen equally lamented the challenges of radios used by ATCOs for communication which he said has remained an age- long issue within the agency. He however, said that they were doing something in synergy with their counterparts in the safety, electronics and engineering services to confront the issue frontally.

Other issue, the director pointed out that has not been given adequate attention was the promotion of deserving officers within the directorate over the years, which has also dragged for so long. He said that the tireless efforts of the current management under the able leadership of Captain Fola Akinkuotu , has laid this issue to rest as they have just started the distribution of letter to deserving officers.

According to him, improvements had been recorded on the Kano sector, while the Lagos was receiving a boost to improve on its range, integrity and reliability.

On trainings, he said during the periods of this management’s assumption of office, various categories of officers had been trained to boost the depleting manpower requirement of the directorate, including “the training of two sets of 24 Area Terminal Radar Controllers in the last one year while another batch of 16 controllers are presently in Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) undergoing the same training.”

He added that 46 new ATCOs were recruited in the last 6 months and are expected to be in NCAT by 11th November this year for training, emphasizing that already a batch of 15 ATC

were in Zaria for ACC course.

“Twenty ATCOs including contract ATCOs received training in emergency response procedure/planning in Abuja in September this year. Approval for two course involving 16 participants in radar refresher programme has been received and will soon be implemented,” he said.

On Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Akpen said , “It is pertinent for me to underscore the theme of this AGM: “Remotely Piloted Aircraft System and Aircraft Management.” The emergence of this technology which involves the deployment of remotely piloted aircraft into most airspace of the world has generated another dimension of consideration and re-configurations of airspaces to accommodate this category of airspace for civil purposes.

“This is an activity which used to exist far away from the confines of our airspaces before but recently, we have seen an upsurge of its deployment for civil purposes in our airspace which require our urgent consideration for an ATM system and airspace reorganisation to accommodate them,” Akpen said.