In a historical move, AAI has decided to implement two stream rating system for Indian air traffic controllers. To discuss its effects and advantages or disadvantages, let us first understand the concept of rating for air traffic controllers. I will also suggest that you read the article How does Air Traffic Control work because then only you will understand the role of various ATC Units that I am going to write in this article.
ATC officers for the Indian civil air space are recruited by AAI. Once they get selected, candidates undergo rigorous training at AAI facilities. After the completion of training, candidates get posted at various airports in India, depending upon the vacancies at each airport.
The real job starts after that only when these candidates start their initial training, starting from Tower and Ground Control. After a long process that includes around 100 hours of on-the-channel training under some experienced controller, followed by written examination and assessment of senior training In-Charge.
Finally, ATC in charge of the station will examine the controller to check whether a candidate is trained enough to handle high traffic situations or unusual situations while keeping calm. If found satisfactory then the candidate is awarded the rating for Tower and Ground control units.
Now he/she is called a rated controller who can work independently in the units (like tower or ground) for which he/she holds the ratings. After this, when a candidate has garnered good experience in tower and ground controlling, he/she is allowed to start training in the next unit, which may be Approach Control or Area Control.
There are two types of ratings in Area and Approach Control. One is Radar-based ACC or APP controlling and the other is Procedural ACC or APP depending upon the availability of Radar on the concerned airport. If a person is posted in metro cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc. the flow will be like Tower/Ground Rating ->Procedural Area->ADS-CPDLC->Radar training at AAI training College->Back to the station and ACC radar rating->Approach Procedural plus APP radar rating. So, as evident, the whole procedure takes around 10-15 good years to get rated in all these positions. This is what we call Single Stream –Multi rating system in Air traffic control.
Disadvantages of Single Stream-Multi rating System:
- There are always queues for training in all the units at all the time which results in a decrease in the productivity of Controllers.
- A controller has to keep going through training for half of his career in ATC. Also, the Controller will not be having adequate breaks between the working slots as during the breaks he will be doing training (because of ATC shortage in AAI). It results in a lack of proper breaks and fatigue.
- By the time Controller becomes Radar rated he is past his 40 years. This age factor comes into play when you need to take prompt decisions. With the increasing age, we all know that our reflexes get slow.
- You will get the highest rating allowance only in the case when you hold the ratings of all the units. As I mentioned above, this process of getting all the ratings will take at least 10-15 years, so there is a financial loss to Controllers.
- As a controller is required to work in so many units with different operational requirements, it is possible that it will lead to a decrease in the competency level of the controller, leading to safety implications.
Two-Stream Rating System:
Considering all these factors, Now AAI has introduced a Two-Rating System for ATC Officers. This system is already in practice in countries like the USA and other nations dealing with high air traffic density. Initially, the new system is to be implemented in four metro cities. Later on, it is planned to implement this system pan India.
Now Controllers will be assigned one of the two streams viz Terminal Stream or En-route Stream.
In the Terminal Stream, a Controller can have ratings of Tower + Ground and Approach (Procedural/Radar). As the jurisdiction of Tower and Approach is around the airport/terminal within a range of 60 nautical miles, so this is called Terminal stream. Most of the young ATC Officers are part of the Terminal stream. It is important to note here that it does not mean that newly recruited ATCOs will get Terminal Stream only.
In the En-route stream, the Controller will be having a rating of Area Control, ADS/CPDLS, and Oceanic Control. Controllers in this stream will be responsible for Air traffic control of aircraft already established on their routes, so this stream is called the En-route stream. This stream has mostly senior and experienced controllers as they only have ratings of Area Control.
How Two-Stream Rating System Improves the Air Traffic Control
- Instead of doing training during their breaks, now controllers can take proper rest periods which will eventually lead to a reduction in fatigue and stress, so improving the air-safety. Also, it will improve operational efficiency.
- It will lead to a considerable reduction in the initial and on-job-training period as Controller will not need to have all the ratings.
- A reduction in the training period will lead to an increase in the availability of controllers to perform independent ATC duties.
- Controllers will get specialized in their allotted streams as they will have to focus on a limited number of units.
- By modifying the rating allowances, AAI has ensured that there is no financial loss to controllers due to the division of streams. It implies that Controllers will take a lesser time to have a maximum permissible rating allowance. Hence, it will help controllers in monetary terms.
Effect of Two-Stream Rating System on AAI ATC Recruitment
There are small chances that it will affect the recruitment process. The only thing that will change in the future is now candidates will be given one of the two streams and based on that they will be sent to the AAI training institute for different courses. Terminal stream candidates will be imparted the training in Tower and Procedural Approach control. Candidates in the En-route stream will be given training in Procedural Area Control.
Also, it is evident that candidates in the En-route stream will get posted at the metro or big cities only because there only AAI has Area control centers. Candidates for Terminal stream may get posted anywhere in India as each airport is having Tower and Approach control units.
As it appears, there are a large number of airports where only Terminal stream Controllers will be posted so we can assume that there will be more transfers of Terminal stream controllers as compared to the En-route controllers, but mind the fact that it is purely an assumption as AAI is yet to publish its transfer policy for the Air traffic controllers after the implementation of two rating system.