Poor training of aviation academy jeopardising air safety

Kathmandu, February 15

The recently published results of seventh level air traffic controllers recruitment examinations have demonstrated that the recruitment process of technical personnel at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, especially the products of its own training academy, is far from transparent.

The results reveal that of the 53 candidates for the post of air traffic control officers, only 11 managed to pass the written test. “Eighty per cent failure rate speaks volumes not only about the quality of training at the Sinamangal-based civil aviation academy, but also the prevailing culture of corruption and nepotism in the organisation,” a senior official at Tribhuvan International Airport said, adding that the appalling failure rate also provides a glimpse into the pathetic condition of Nepal’s civil aviation.

According to CAAN’s organogram, all six deputy-directors general positions at CAAN are occupied by individuals with training-based aviation backgrounds from the same academy.

Though the International Civil Aviation Organisation provides standards for training and standardisation for aviation related professionals such as air traffic controllers raised by CAAN at its academy, the annex provisions on personnel licensing, however, have clearly circumscribed the range of privileges for such professionals.

“However, in CAAN, such personnel with qualifications and a clearly pre-defined scope have gradually usurped positions that are not related to the field for which they were initially inducted, thereby denying other eligible candidates a fair opportunity,” another TIA official added.

According to him, the use of words such as knowledge, skill and experience rather than ‘education’ in the ICAO annex on personnel licensing is clearly deliberate as there are many developed states with high levels of aviation activity where the minimum required qualification for air traffic controller is a mere high-school diploma.

“The same is the case for pilots who fly highly sophisticated aircraft like A380,” an aviation expert said, adding that the annex provision specifies the minimum age for eligibility for an ATC licence at 21.

This clearly underscores the fact that ICAO doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree in mind as most countries have a four-year bachelor’s programme and throwing in a few months-long ATC training clearly precludes meeting the specified timeline, he said.

Yet, a majority of candidates, all graduates and currently working on contract basis at CAAN’s airports after flunking the recent public service commission-mediated examinations reinforces fundamental problems with the academy that had remained ‘unapproved’ for years.

“Its presently ‘approved’ status appears more cosmetic than substantial, as the results have now conclusively demonstrated and merits some serious investigation,” the TIA official claimed, “CAAN is once again jeopardising air safety by continuing to employ failed candidates as temporary controllers, despite being under the ICAO’s microscope.”