Air traffic controllers to get licences

Unlike their counterparts in Europe, US and Australia, air traffic controllers in India are not licensed.

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Air traffic controllers in the country will soon be given licences, now that the Indian Aircraft Rules amendments that would make this possible are slated to come through in January. 

A gazette notification to the effect was published by the Indian government on December 8. It called for suggestions and recommendations within a deadline of 30 days, following which the amendment to the Indian Aircraft Rules, 1937 which allows the central government to grant certification to air traffic controllers (ATCOs) would come into effect any day. 

Unlike their counterparts in Europe, US and Australia, air traffic controllers here are not licensed. They are only issued certificates by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) denoting qualification to work on a particular air traffic control unit. An Air Traffic Control (ATC) licence essentially is a legal document that attests that the holder has been trained in and has demonstrated an understanding of national ATC procedures, aviation law and meteorology. Once the amendment comes through, all the existent ATCOs will have to get their respective licences (within a deadline period as specified by the government) and maintain it in order to keep their jobs in the ATC. Following the issuance of licences, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) too will be involved in the process with greater powers to decide on the syllabus of training, examination, renewal of licence etc. The DGCA will have the power to disqualify a controller. A controller could lose the licence, for instance, if the DGCA finds that s/he is addicted to alcohol, drugs etc; is a habitual criminal; has obtained the licence fradulently or has been found to be irresponsible in discharge of duties. The frequency of medical examinations to be undergone to keep the licence valid will also go up. 

What would these changes mean to an air passenger? “If the licences are issued with integrity, then it would go a long way in improving air safety. It will also help address the issue of shortage of air traffic controllers as the field will get attractive to youngsters,” said a senior air traffic controller. 

To become an ATCO, one has to have a BTech, BE (electronics, telecommunciation) or MSc (Physics or Electronics) degree. 

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