Ab-initio Air Traffic Control Tower Courses Discontinued Due Lack Of Staffing In The Centres

Airservices Australia have discontinued all Ab-initio Air Traffic Control Tower stream courses to push the numbers of controllers up in the centres.

Previously, newly recruited Air Traffic Controllers chose their stream of preference. Terminal Approach courses weren't available due to a high failure rate of ab-initios. There was however the choice of Tower or Enroute. This was made during the application process and applicants were then placed into the two groups for selection.

There are a number of factors that contributed to the discontinuation, and from conversations I've had with controllers from other country's the same problems are occurring across the globe.

One problem is the huge number of controllers retiring. It seems there is a large gap in the age department. Companies went through a large recruitment process a decade or more ago and boosted numbers and then for quite a while the process stopped. Now the older generation are approaching retirement age and numbers are falling dramatically if not already at critical stage.

Controllers in the centres are burning out, unable to take annual leave. Overtime is a weekly occurrence and I've even seen shifts being filled by management or staffing contingency plans being utilised.

It is clear that a lot of the enroute ATC have had enough by the number of them applying for tower positions across the country. Air Traffic Control Tower positions are in high demand and the competition is fierce. I really consider myself lucky to have won my recent application.

Still to this day I haven't received a transfer date. The staffing problems don't just stop in the centres, even in the Tower we have problems. Problems with people rating.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but at my current location they haven't had an Air Traffic Control rate on the Procedural Approach position for over two years. One controller has been waiting for this whole duration for someone to rate so that he can have his position filled and transfer to the job he won in Brisbane in 2005!

So how will management fix the problem? I have no idea. I've only been in the Air Traffic Control industry for a few years and the whole time it seems to be getting worse. I think the company's priority at the moment is screwing us all over in other ways (salary related).

All I want to do is come to work and do my job well and go home.