NATCA Participates in 51st Annual IFATCA Conference
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Bill Holtzman, Ruth Stilwell, Garth Koleszar and Dale Wright
Garth Koleszar, Dale Wright, Bill Holtzman and Pat Forrey
The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) held its 51st Annual Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, last week. Hosted by the local member association, the Nepal Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) conference was a huge success and the largest international conference ever held in Nepal with over 400 Air Traffic Controllers from 62 countries.
IFATCA has been representing air traffic controllers since 1961, with more than 50,000 members in over 130 countries. Among its goals are the promotion of safety, efficiency and regularity in international air navigation, as well as the protection and safeguarding of the interests of the air traffic control profession.
The NATCA delegation participated in the conference. Former Southwest Regional RVP Darrell Meachum was re-elected to a second term as the Executive Vice President (EVP) of Finance. The conference acknowledged the work of former IFATCA EVP-Technical and NATCA liaison Martin W. Cole (ZDC) who passed away earlier this month.
"NATCA’s participation in this federation is crucial to our membership’s input being heard on projects worldwide that affect controllers here in the United States,'" said Dale Wright, part of NATCA's delegation, former IFATCA EVP of Finance, and NATCA’s current Director of Safety and Technology.
Also representing NATCA was Pat Forrey, former President and currently the IFATCA EVP, Technical; Dr. Ruth Stilwell, former NATCA EVP and currently IFATCA's representative to ICAO; Bill Holtzman (ZDC), a member of the IFATCA Technical Operations Committee, Adell Humphreys, IFATCA Committee Secretary and Garth Koleszar, NATCA's lead on professional standards.
More on the conference, from IFATCA's press release:
The Prime Minister of Nepal, the Right Honourable Dr Baburam Bhattarai officially opened the conference. The Ministers: the Honourable Lokendra Bista Magar and the Honourable Dilip Kumar Maharjan also addressed the international audience. Representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) also attended conference.
Under the theme “One Voice, One Capability, One Sky”, the conference considered and amended IFATCA policies on such matters as protection of safety related data, Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) with disabilities, English Language proficiency and training standards for ATCOs. IFATCA achieved a significant accomplishment by producing an Initial Training Manual for ATCOs, which is being accepted by ICAO as the global document defining these standards.
The conference overwhelmingly agreed to increase its participation in international and regional ICAO activities affecting PANS and Annexes, which are the basis for developing aviation standards and recommended practices. Extensive research of new technologies and procedures was discussed and will form the basis for policy for the federation.
A highlight of the conference was the “IFATCA Panel” which focused on “capability,” particularly how lesser developed countries can enhance Air Traffic Control capability and benefit from the advances being made in the research and development projects underway in Europe and North America. The panel participants included Mr. Paul McCarthy, IFALPA, Mr. Chris Dalton, Chief of the Air Traffic Management Section of ICAO, Mr. Prashant Sanglikar, Manager Safety, Operations and Infrastructure of IATA, Mr. Pratap Tiwari, President of the Air Traffic Controllers’ Association of Nepal and President and Chief Executive Officer of IFATCA, Mr. Alexis Brathwaite.
The conference also heard about significant issues affecting several Member Associations. The situations in Pakistan and Cyprus were of particular concern. IFATCA believes that safety is compromised in these areas when the working conditions of Air Traffic Controllers are being compromised. IFATCA has serious concerns when laws are passed, such as in Cyprus, which limit ATCOs abilities to take action to protect their working conditions. The situation in Pakistan, where ATCOs are not recognised as important aviation professionals working in a safety critical environment required the Federations attention.
“These are not just industrial issues. Air Traffic Control is not an administrative function. It is a highly specialised and demanding profession requiring unique skills. This has been recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an agency of the United Nations. IFATCA does not condone the arbitrary reduction in conditions of employment for such a specialised task with such significant safety implications. IFATCA calls on the governments and Air Navigation Service Providers in these countries to work with their Controllers to understand the issues and work towards a negotiated and acceptable outcome. The safety and stability of the Air Traffic Control system must be paramount,” said Mr. Brathwaite.
The conference heard that there are still concerns about service providers failing to maintain adequate staffing levels of qualified ATCOs, with a reliance on significant amounts of overtime being worked. “Maintaining adequate staffing levels is crucial for maintaining safety standards, to enhance air traffic control capability in developing regions and to facilitate the ability to transition to the next generation of Air Traffic Control systems, “said Mr. Brathwaite. English Language Proficiency for ATCOs was another featured topic at the conference. There are still many States and service providers who have not yet respected the ICAO requirement for Level 4 proficiency. IFATCA is working closely with ICAO in the area and will continue to be active in assisting Member Associations whose States have not met the required standard.
The conference highlighted the importance of the growth of aviation in the Asian region, and the issues and challenges this brings. In closing the conference IFATCA President, Mr. Brathwaite, said “This conference came together with the theme of One Voice, One Capability, One Sky”. The progress this week has demonstrated what we can achieve by working together, in our unique profession, to meet the demands of the future."