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Tough times for Air Traffic Control

NATS Swanwick ATC Centre

NATS Swanwick ATC Centre

As much as airlines have been hit by the Corona pandemic, the same can be said of Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Income is mostly obtained from aircraft movements, it therefore follows when such movements are down so is the cash flow to ATC! This has been compounded in Europe by airlines having been allowed by Eurocontrol given Eurocontrol to defer en-route ATC charges. Airport ATC companies, of course, have also suffered from drastic reductions in landing/takeoff charges.

ATC providers are also obligated to keep services available to all airspace and airport users regardless of traffic levels, consolidating working positions when they can to save money.

Unlike the pilot profession, replacing controllers that have been made redundant or taken Voluntary Redundancy can take between 6-15 months, assuming potential candidates are available.

Controllers are an expensive commodity and some on old style pensions impose a heavy burden on employers as well.

In the UK, NATS are owned by the Government, Heathrow Airport, staff and a consortium of British airlines. None of these have money to spare! Indeed NATS have furloughed many staff (including controllers) and temporarily suspended pension contributions. Overseas contract work is also at risk in this global crisis.

Difficult decisions need to be faced in the ATC world and gearing up to high traffic levels will need consideration, along with training interruptions.

Like airlines, ATC Is facing uncertainty and financial adjustment. Watch this space…

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