ATC Complaints

June 24th, 2009

We all know ATC are trying hard to do their job, and to achieve the objectives of ‘safe and efficient’ flow of traffic. Which is compounded when you have a busy environment like JNB, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Especially when you have seen the situation handled better by someone perhaps with a bit more experience.
For many Airlines which are bottomless job creation pits designed to extract tax payers money, it is a minor inconvenience, but for smaller charter operators, who have a small but very critical profit margin, it can be the difference between profit and loss on a flight, and overall well being of the company.
We do understand and presume all ATC are trying to do their job to the best of their ability, but this article below, archived from the Arfican Pilot newsletters, explains nicely some of the frustration felt from the pilot’s point of view.


Phoebus Apollo photo shoot on Sunday
Visitors to the Harvard Café were treated to an exciting photo shoot at Rand Airport where we parked two DC-9s and a DC-3 on the concrete ramp right outside the historic terminal building for a photo sortie. Hennie Delport flew me in a Robinson helicopter to capture these exciting images for future marketing purposes. Rand Airport’s ATCs were very professional as usual in accommodating the Robbie 22.

However, the ATCs at Johannesburg International Airport leave much to be desired. One of the DC-9s had to reposition to Rand Airport for the photo session, but was kept at the holding point for 45 minutes burning expensive Jet A1. Do ATCs realise that this aircraft probably burnt more fuel in value waiting for a departure slot than some of them earn in a month? Phoebus Apollo often repositions various aircraft types to and from FAJS to FAGM without any delays when suitably qualified controllers are on duty. The VFR flight takes all of three minutes, yet the frustration of having to deal with controllers who do not understand the logistics of aircraft. Unfortunately, several people were delayed as a direct result of the controller’s inability to manage a slightly unusual situation.

Later in the day when the DC-9 had repositioned back to FAJS a brand new Gulfstream taxied its left winglet into the tail cone of the DC-9 knocking the cone clean off the aircraft. The pilot has a cursory look out of his left window and continued taxing to the holding point for an international flight, asking for “immediate line-up and take-off.” Due to the fact that the Phoebus Apollo pilots had witnessed the accident and telephoned ATC to report this, the Gulfstream was denied clearance and told to return to the ramp. The company operations were fuming, but what about the passengers? Does a professional pilot simply continue with the flight after an accident of this nature?

(Note to) South African ATCs
Please note that the above is not intended to ‘have a go’ at South African ATCs; indeed many ATCs are good friends of African Pilot. However, some ATCs have great difficulty understanding the cost involved in keeping aircraft airborne. In addition, the unnecessary time wasted at the holding points is a huge cost to the operator as well as being very bad for aircraft engines. It appears that better performance and accountability is what is required from ATNS management from individual air traffic controllers.

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