Air Transport World

A groundswell for European ATC upgrades. (air traffic control)

As the European Community Commission (ECC), the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), Eurocontrol and various other government and quasigovernment bodies accelerate plans to break the ATC logjam over Europe, skepticism over the future continues among the group that will have to make the plans work--the air-traffic controllers.

Among the topics that continue to worry controllers are: * Not enough trained men and women will be available to operate the vastly expanded system that is planned. * Insufficient importance is being placed on the human being as the wave of new technology comes in. * The military, although being scaled down in Europe since detente, still is not serious about giving up the airspace that it monopolizes. * A faintly discernible trend toward moving national ATC systems out of government control and into private-sector hands will come to nothing.

Ulrich Windt, a German controller, told ATW: "The average controller is a somewhat crazy guy. We work because we like the job; we like to have a challenge. Striking goes against the feelings of controllers. If you look at the strikes that have occurred, money was never a problem. They always were asking for better working hours and better equipment.

"At the moment, we have a rotten system, run for years with the same number of controllers but with more traffic. We are still in the Stone Age."

Other European controllers were in general agreement with Windt.

What really made them angry? Their replies encompassed items such as equipment that doesn't work properly, right down to headsets and ball-point pens; withdrawal of passes for car parks near their place of work; pilots who put the blame for late departures on ATC when the real reason is nonarrival of catering or a passenger. . . .

There is little doubt that Europe's ATC system is a disjointed maze and that controllers are right to feel apprehensive. Its shortcomings were detailed comprehensively in these pages (ATW, 9/91). But a groundswell is developing within the ECC, ECAC and the other bodies to improve the situation. …

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