Airports Authority of India (AAI) has fast-tracked the training of air traffic controllers (ATCOs) at its Prayagraj College to meet the needs of rising air traffic in the country.

Civil Aviation Training College (CATC) which celebrated its platinum jubilee last week, is now conducting ATC ab-initio training classes in two shifts and has tweaked the course structure that will enable quicker deployment of ATCOs.

The changes were put in place this summer and are expected to double the training capabilities of the college.

According to the Civil Aviation Ministry projections the combined fleet of all Indian carriers is expected to increase from over 700 now to 1,200 in the next five years. Similarly the number of airports in the country are expected to rise from 148 now to over 220 in the same period.

Accordingly, the AAI is gearing up to meet staffing requirements. At present there are 4,030 ATCOs in service. Over 850 ATCOs were inducted in past three years and 396 of them are in training now. AAI said there are vacancies for 667 ATCOs and these are under recruitment. “Recruitment and training of ATCOs is a continuous process, the posts which have been created recently are in the process of being filled and accordingly our training centres have been braced up to sustain the continuous recruitment of ATCOs,” AAI said in a statement.

Trainee output up

Apart from Prayagraj, AAI has training centres in Gondia (Maharashtra) and Hyderabad. “ Earlier we were training new recruits in 10 simultaneous batches. Now with the DGCA nod for two shift operations at CATC, the number of batches that can be trained concurrently has been increased to 20. Moreover the duration of ab-initio training has been reduced from 33 to 26 weeks, thereby doubling the trainee output per year,” said K Vasudevan, Principal and executive director, CATC, Prayagraj.

At CATC, trainee air traffic controllers are taught procedures to guide aircraft at airports and manage en route and overflying traffic. This includes duties at various positions such as control tower, approach and area control. On completion of a course the controllers are deputed to an airport for on-the-job-training. A controller gets a rating and is allowed to perform duty independently only after successfully passing a stringent assessment. Controllers need to get separate ratings for tower, approach and area units at each field stations.

While previously trainees were taught procedures related to tower, approach and area control at one go, now the training has been split. New recruits will now only learn about terminal or en route procedures and will be posted to airports for on-the-job training.

Officials say the increase in training capacity will thus help AAI to meet its staff requirements due to new airport developments, retirements and attrition.