Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bhutan - Can DCA do it?

Air Traffic Control 17 August, 2011 - The department of civil aviation (DCA) says that it is fully capable of taking over air traffic control (ATC) at Paro airport.

The department’s statement comes in the wake of a media report saying that sources from within the Indian air force (IAF), currently in charge of the air traffic controlling, and national airline, Drukair, are sceptical of DCA’s capacity to take over.

ATC is a service provided from the ground to aircraft flying in a tower’s designated airspace, or while on the ground. Information, such as approvals for landing or taking off, weather situation, and distance to other aircraft, among others, are provided.

Asked whether DCA is concerned by the scepticism, the agency’s director general, Phala Dorji said any scepticism is probably untrue. “Drukair and the IAF would never say such things.”

But he still added, “If at all this truly comes from them, then I’d have to express shock, knowing that we’ve trained and qualified air traffic controllers by ICAO standards.” The international civil aviation organisation (ICAO) is a UN agency that sets safety standards in international air transport.

The IAF has been in charge of civilian ATC at Paro airport ever since scheduled flight operations began in 1983. Currently, DCA has four trained air traffic controllers, but play an observer role in the control tower.

DCA has proposed to the communications ministry that it take over ATC duties at Paro airport. Dialogue is currently underway with GoI, according to DCA. A decision on the issue is expected shortly.

Phala Dorji explained the rationale behind the proposal. He said that as Paro airport is a civilian airport, the department is working towards transitioning service providers to civilian agencies.

“Given the small amount of traffic at Paro airport, it won’t be a difficult task for DCA controllers,” he pointed out.

He attributed Paro airport’s safety record to the IAF controllers, and said DCA was appreciative of their service.

The issue of Paro ATC was also highlighted during the communication ministry’s midterm review, last year.

Drukair CEO, Tandin Jamso, said he had no comment, as Drukair was not even aware of the ATC issue. He said Drukair had also not commented on the issue prior.

IAF also did not comment.

By Gyaltsen K Dorji

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