Let us start with some newspaper headlines covering a time span of the last 6-7 years. Airports Authority of India (AAI) or to be specific Air Traffic Controllers’ shortage has always been in the limelight. It appears to be a chronic issue for the state-run undertaking working under the aegis of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India. The shortage has led to an unnecessary burden on ATCOs which may lead to a disaster someday.
Aviation in India is on rising over the last decade which includes the development and expansion of airports, a surge in the number of air passengers, and entry of private airlines. The government of India has signed bilateral agreements between India and other countries to allow aircraft to fly within each other’s territory, leading to better connectivity with these countries. Relaxation of 5/20 Rule has made it easier for private airlines to open more sectors.
In 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation also released its Civil Aviation Policy which aims at providing last mile connectivity to unserved or under-served airports. To cater to this growth and development, there has been an obvious increase in aircraft movements.
So we can see there has been remarkable growth achieved by the Indian aviation industry which is expected to be continued in the next decade as well. But the number of Air Traffic Controllers who are vested in the responsibility to make aviation the safest mode of transport has not increased proportionally to this exponential growth of the aviation sector.
AAI and ATC Recruitment (2012 – 2022)
ATC Recruitments (2012-2015)
In 2012, AAI recruited around 180 ATC Officers and then AAI went into hibernate mode. No recruitment was done in 2013 and 2014, however, at the same time, the number of aircraft movements rose from 1478811 to 1603021. Here is the data available on AAI’s website showing this rise.
In 2014, USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety rating. One of the reasons for this downgrade was the shortage of Air Traffic Controllers. FAA raised the question about India’s oversight processes not meeting global standards. In 2015, FAA restored the ranking owing to some corrective actions to address shortcomings.
ICAO Safety Panel audited various airports in India in Nov-Dec, 2015. ICAO Panel found that India is facing an acute shortage of ATC Officers and red-flagged it. In its final report, the panel made this issue a “serious safety concern.” This report was an alarm for AAI as it has the responsibility to recruit a suitable number of ATCOs for smooth and safe operations.
ATC Recruitments (2015-2022)
2015: The rising media reports and ICAO Safety Panel’s report lead this Mini-Ratna PSU to finally wake up. AAI announced the recruitment of JE-ATC for 200 posts. The exam was conducted in April 2015 and subsequently, 200 ATC Officers were recruited. But due to no proactive approach by AAI in the last 2-3 years, this recruitment served little purpose to cover the ATC crunch in the country.
In December 2015, another exam was conducted by AAI to recruit 400 ATCOs. Some of these officers joined AAIs training institutes while others were sent to various airports for On-Job training (OJT).
2016: At the beginning of 2016, the total strength of ATC Officers in India was approximately 2200. This year, AAI once again conducted an online exam in April for the recruitment of 200 ATCOs. The number of ATCOs to be recruited was later revised to 400.
2017: As there was mass recruitment in 2015, it resulted in a delay in the result declaration of the exam held in 2016. The result of the 2016 recruitment process was declared in 2017. These selected candidates were imparted ab-initio and OJTI. So there was no recruitment done in 2017.
2018: The recruitment advertisement was out on 3rd July, 2018. The exam was held in November 2018 for 200 JE- ATC posts. The result of the exam was declared on 2nd Feb, 2019. A total of 584 candidates were called for Voice tests and Document verification.
2021: A new recruitment was released in November 2020 for 264 posts of ATCs. The recruitment was in news for how a new syllabus pattern was rotated on social media and accessed by only very few students.
2022: The exam was held on 27th July 2022 for 400 JE-ATC posts. The recruitment is currently being processed.
By end of 2022 recruitment process, AAI will be having around 4200 ATC Officers.
But are these 4200 ATC posts sufficient? The straightforward answer will be NO. Because to cater the recruitment to the world’s fastest-growing aviation industry, India requires at least 5000 ATC Officers By 2022. AAI needs efficient and well-planned recruitment of ATC Officers so that these Guardians of Sky can work in the most efficient way, providing safety to all the aircraft under their control.
Future ATC Recruitments
By analyzing all this progress, Incomopedia expects that there will be more recruitment of ATC Officers in the coming years. From 2015-17, AAI had mass recruitment to bridge the gap between required and available ATC manpower. From 2018 onwards AAI has curtailed the vacancies and future recruitments are to be done in a phased manner.
In 2023 and 2024, it is expected that AAI will recruit 200 JE-ATC candidates, each year. This will help AAI to have adequate ATC manpower to manage the Indian airspace in a better, more efficient, and safer manner.