A Shortage of Air Traffic Controllers in China, India and the Philippines

Published: 19 Dec 2005

By Ramanan Vijayaraghavan, Aerospace & Defence Research Analyst, Asia-Pacific

Introduction

Frost & Sullivan’s research on China, India and the Philippines’s air traffic management systems suggests that these countries face a shortage of air traffic controllers to meet the growing aircraft movements. The reasons are multiple and vary from budgetary problems for training to professional challenges faced by controllers. We provide a summary below.

China – the biggest aerospace market outside the United States is facing a shortage of controllers in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Frost & Sullivan estimates that China has approximately 3,600 controllers but would require 6,200 by 2010 to meet up with demands of the two international events. Our research also indicates that there are several reasons for the current disparity in controllers.

  • High Turn over of Chinese controllers: Many controllers have become disillusioned with work due to lack of grading structure within the Chinese Air Traffic Management Bureau (ATMB).
  • Lack of interest to work in the Western provinces: Frost & Sullivan notes that many controllers are unwilling to move and work in Air Traffic Control Centres in the western provinces due to the poor salaries and lack of professional challenges. Similarly, there would be reluctance on the part of some controllers to move to the busier ATC centres of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou if the salaries do not keep up with the increased work load.
  • Lack of professionalism: While this is changing, Frost & Sullivan notes that the current operating structure of the Chinese ATMB does not emphasis enough on efficiency which again does not augur well for controller recruitment and retention.

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