Forcing Controllers to Work at a Specific Foreign Location

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Forcing Controllers to Work at a Specific Foreign Location

45TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 27-31 March 2006

WP No. 166

Forcing Controllers to Work at a Specific Foreign Location

Presented by PLC


1.1 During discussions based on the industrial dispute in Guatemala the topic was brought up at the Melbourne Conference 2005 by EVPP.

1.2 On January 11th 2005 air traffic controllers from Guatemala (ACTAG) were forced to stop their work due to an industrial dispute. Shortly afterwards the airspace was reopened under the Guatemalan armed forces, with ATCOs from a neighbouring country and pilots.

1.3 At least 6 Mexican ATCOs have been forced within hours by the Director of Mexican ANSP SENEAM to replace their Guatemalan colleagues who were fired. He alleged that this mission was conducted under a technical agreement between Mexico and Guatemala.

1.4 IFATCA has intervened through EVP AMA by many visits to controllers from Guatemala and Mexico, as well to the authorities, but primarily in the respect of solving the problems with the Guatemalan controllers.

1.5 Similar situations arose in the last years, especially within the Americas region, where ATCOs were replaced by non-qualified or non-pertinent personnel (e.g. Dominican Republic, Costa Rica).


2.1 The IFATCA Manual contains policy regarding disputes, civil mobilization and use of unqualified personnel.

2.1.1 Page 4111, paragraph 3.1 Disputes:

1.3.1 The settlement of disputes should be through negotiation followed by mediation, consultation or arbitration whichever may be appropriate to national conditions.

1.3.2 For the purpose of guaranteeing safety, ATCOs shall not be replaced by personnel who do not hold ATC licences in accordance with ICAO Annex 1, with the ratings, recency and competency appropriate to the duties that they are expected to undertake. (Reproduced under Use Unqualified personnel on page 4342 as para. 4.3.1)

1.3.3. The functions which are contained within ICAO Annex 1, as being ATC functions shall not be added to the work responsibilities for unlicensed personnel. (Reproduced under Use Unqualified personnel as para. 4.3.2)


2.1.2 Page 4112 , paragraph 1.4 Civil Mobilization:

1.4.1 IFATCA strongly condemns the actions of governments in resorting to the use of civil mobilisation or requisition measures for the purpose of preventing or ending national disputes. Only negotiation or arbitration procedures shall be used to prevent or end disputes.


2.1.3 Additionally on page 4342 a third paragraph on the use of unqualified personnel states that:

4.3.3. In the event of an incident, caused totally or in part by the use of unqualified personnel, responsibility must lie with the person or the authority responsible for allocating the unqualified staff to the task undertaken.


2.2 ICAO Annex 1 Chapter 4: “Licenses and ratings for personnel other than flight crew members”, under Air Traffic Controller Ratings, states that:

the applicant of a rating shall have knowledge of:

1) aerodrome layout; physical characteristics and visual aids;

2) airspace structure;

3) applicable rules, procedures and source of information;

4) air navigation facilities;

5) air traffic control equipment and its use;

6) terrain and prominent landmarks;

7) characteristics of air traffic;

8) weather phenomena; and

9) emergency and search and rescue plans;

and if holding a radar control rating additionally:

1) principles, use and limitations of radar, other surveillance systems and associated equipment; and

2) procedures for the provision of approach, precision approach or area radar control services, as appropriate, including procedures to ensure appropriate terrain clearance.
(Para, p.4-3)

2.2.1 Furthermore is mentioned that the applicant shall have provided, satisfactorily, under the supervision of an appropriately rated air traffic controller: an aerodrome control service, for a period of not less than 90 hours or one month, whichever is greater, at the unit for which the rating is sought; for an aerodrome control rating, or for an approach, approach radar, area or area radar control rating: the control service for which the rating is sought, for a period of not less than 180 hours or three months, whichever is greater, at the unit for which the rating is sought. (Para, p.4-4)

2.2.2 Additionally, when the applicant already holds an air traffic controller rating in another category, or the same rating for another unit, the Licensing Authority shall determine whether the experience requirement of can be reduced, and if so, to what extent. (, p.4-4)

2.2.3 According the privilege of the holder of an air traffic controller licence endorsed with the corresponding rating shall be, to provide or to supervise the provision of the adequate control service for the aerodrome / control area or part thereof, for which the licence holder is rated.

2.3 Forcing air traffic controllers to work at foreign locations without any training is beyond any doubt in direct violation with the ICAO Annex 1 requirements regarding licences and ratings. As such these ATCOs must be considered as unqualified personnel.

2.4 Replacing licensed ATCOs by unqualified personnel for the purpose of breaking industrial disputes is in strong contradiction with the IFATCA policy on disputes and must be condemned. Furthermore such actions bring the aviation safety in jeopardy.

2.5 When unqualified personnel is used, IFATCA should, preferable jointly with other international organisations (ICAO, IFALPA, ITF…), inform the public about the compromised safety.

2.6 Declaring airspace where unqualified personnel is performing duties not in accordance with their training, recency and competency as unsafe is the subject of another work item of PLC and is covered by another working paper presented to Conference.


3.1 Replacing fully qualified and recent personnel by unqualified or not recent personnel is putting safety in jeopardy. An air traffic controller must not be allowed or forced to work beyond the limitations of his ratings.

3.2 PLC is of the opinion that current IFATCA policy doesn’t allow controllers to work at foreign locations without proper training. The subject “Industrial Disputes” is covered adequately and need no amendment.

3.3 When controllers are forced to work at foreign locations without the proper training, IFATCA is one of the channels to inform the public about the compromised safety.

3.4 Declaring such airspace as unsafe is the subject of another work item of PLC and is dealt with in another working paper presented to Conference.

Draft Recommendation

4.1 This paper be accepted as information.


ICAO Annex 1 9th edition

Guatemala controllers conflict report by EVP AMA 2005

IFATCA Press release “Dominican Republic” 01 April 2004

IFATCA Press release “Costa Rica” 02. July 2004

IFATCA Press release “Guatemala” 17. January 2005


Last Update: September 29, 2020  

December 21, 2019   125   Jean-Francois Lepage    2006    

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