The European Regional Meeting of IFATCA, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations, was held 9th – 11th October in Tallinn, Estonia. More than 150 participants, representing 38 of the 44 member associations in the Region, attended the meeting, showing the continued dedication of Air Traffic Controllers in Europe. ATCEUC, IFATSEA, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), SESAR and EUROCONTROL were also in attendance.
During the meeting, following the signature of the Corporate Just Culture Declaration at the European Commission on October 1st, a complete day was dedicated to the understanding and implementation of Just Culture.
Members of the European Region raised their concerns against the threat of increasing retirement ages based on economic or political interests, disregarding acknowledged fatigue and stress studies. Insufficient staffing at several Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), combined with a general increase in aircraft traffic numbers, leads to an increase in dropouts due to fatigue, stress and burnouts.
Ageing controller workforces, higher retirement ages, stringent cutbacks in personnel, recruitment and training by ANSPs have an unfiltered impact on a number of European member associations. The investment in people – the air traffic controllers – remains a vital issue in this highly complex and technical environment. While the implementation of better tools and technologies in many workplaces help the controller’s duties, it cannot replace the human actions necessary to guarantee overall safety. Just Culture and health protection of air traffic controllers in the execution of their profession require more attention than ever before.
IFATCA Executive Vice President Europe, Mr. Zeljko Oreski, encouraged further collaboration amongst aviation industry, “Europe is faced with challenging issues that can only be resolved with true collaboration among all stakeholders involved. Air Traffic Control Associations have comprehensive experience and constructive ideas that are significantly valuable in finding positive solutions”.
Finally, a new worrying issue was highlighted following court decisions in Belgium; income that should have been paid to ANSPs in Moldova and Romania has been withheld. EUROCONTROL, the organization responsible for collecting the user fees, is forced to retain the payments owing to the ANSPs, creating potential financial difficulties. “IFATCA members are extremely concerned that the financial restrictions on MoldATSA and RomATSA will potentially impact the level of safety within the airspace of these countries”, said IFATCA President and CEO, Mr. Patrik Peters.