Unions set strategies for emerging air traffic control technologies

February 11, 2016

Remote towers

 ATS unions discuss strategy for remote towers

The ITF’s air traffic services (ATS) affiliates from 20 countries have agreed to develop a global strategy to stop any negative impact on flight safety and aviation workers’ conditions posed by the growing use of remote air traffic control towers far from airports.

Sixty-five delegates gathered on 5 and 6 February for a lively two-day conference in London. A series of panel discussions on the first day provided an overview of the situation and included views from organisations outside the labour community – such as manufacturers, employers and regulators.

The second day was reserved for unions (including international professional organisations) only, so that they could agree the basis of an ITF position and develop a global strategy with a strong national and regional focus to respond to the issue of remote towers.

Delegates stressed that unions were not against new technology but insisted that it should always either maintain or improve safety. They said that ATS affiliates categorically opposed simultaneous multi-tower operations – where the ATS service covers two or more airports and is provided to more than one airport simultaneously – because they could cause serious distraction and undermine flight safety.

Delegates agreed that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) should take the lead in developing global regulation for remote towers. They declared that the ITF and its affiliates would insist that the involvement of trade unions from the start of new technology discussions was essential for success.

The ITF agreed to compile a best practices toolkit, including strategies and materials, to support its affiliates.

ITF civil aviation section secretary Gabriel Mocho commented: “The introduction of remote air traffic control towers is a relatively new development but an increasingly live issue for our ATS affiliates.

“During the last two days, the unions have made it absolutely clear that they would strongly oppose the use of one control room to control several towers or for social dumping with cross-border operations.”

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