Inactive ATCs rule the roost at MoCTCA, CAAN

Kathmandu, November 22

The two engineering services related joint secretary level positions at the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation continue to be manned by non-engineer former air traffic controllers without any formal aviation qualifications, promoting impunity in the country’s civil aviation sector, according to stakeholders.

As the joint secretaries remain confined to the ministry for their entire career without having to worry about transfer to less attractive positions elsewhere, this naturally allows them to get away with negligence while waiting for the right opportunity to strike gold, they added.

They are not even being held accountable for the country’s tardy progress on compliance with aircraft accident investigation related questions of International Civil Aviation Organisation audit since 2009. “And yet, they merrily investigate air crashes regularly and produce ‘trash value’ safety reports that have not succeeded in preventing the recurrence of crashes of identical nature,” a senior aviation official said.

Interestingly, since CAAN came into existence, one or the other has invariably sat on the CAAN board of directors and is thus party to all policy-level decisions, a former board member recounted.

When contacted, ministry officials said that the positions were created in 1999 purportedly for the management of the aviation industry and supervision of CAAN, but they, however, refused to comment on the issue of base qualifications of key aviation personnel there.

Besides, the ATC training purportedly provided in line with the ICAO’s standards on personnel licensing at the Civil Aviation Academy is not an academic course that is conducted under a university’s affiliation with necessary academic safeguards, a senior CAAN manager said.

“However, the ICAO standards’ silence on the duration of the training has resulted in the production of controllers with varying degrees of competence with each claiming their superiority.”

Amusingly, with less than 100 active controller positions within CAAN, their professional organisation, Nepal Air Traffic Controllers’ Association, however, claims membership of over twice the number. It clearly shows that controllers who are no longer controllers continue to be controllers, another CAAN official quipped.

According to him, the ATC training with a predefined limited job scope has ultimately been turned into an escalator for reaching the highest policy-making positions in CAAN and MoCTCA.

“It should be recalled that an ATC is not a life-long valid academic degree but a privilege with strings attached, especially related to medical conditions and job proficiency. Yet, inactive ATCs are still guaranteed a career within CAAN where they intrude into non-related domains.”

This daily had also reported on the issues of nepotism while short-listing trainees for the course and how recently more than 80 per cent of the candidates for permanent positions at CAAN had flunked the Public Service Commission examinations and yet were hired on contract basis by the CAAN.

Interestingly, one of them was on duty at Lukla tower when the Goma Air Let-410 crashed killing the flight crew on-board recently.