Staff shortage hurting airport control tower
Following last November’s crippling strike by unionized air traffic controllers, Director of Civil Aviation Kingley Nelson says the department is still operating short of staff.
However, in responding to fresh concerns raised by one of his predecessors, Nelson has assured that the situation does not pose any immediate danger to members of the travelling public.
“It has to do with availability of a minimum number of air traffic controllers per shift. Normally if it comes down that you have a minimum, a person might work a double shift just to make sure the numbers are there,” he explained.
However, he acknowledged, “we can’t go on doing this forever”.
“There is a reason why we are seeking to recruit new staff at the moment. They have to be trained for three years,” Nelson added.
He was responding to concerns raised by a retired director of civil aviation, who has pointed out that Barbados is currently way short of the required number of 66 air traffic controllers, with only about 38 trained and qualified persons employed at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
“They [the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport] are only now starting to recruit controllers this month. But they would not be ready to start working in the control tower to guide planes until 2018 because it takes three years to train a controller,” stressed the former senior official, who did not want to be identified.
However, Nelson said the situation remained manageable for the time being.
“We just want to make sure that we have enough staff; that the staff complement is such that we can have people working and have enough off time and that sort of thing,” he said.
The two unions representing the air traffic controllers – the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) – have also been pushing for improvements following last year’s temporary work stoppage by the air traffic controllers.