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Outdated radar restricts aviation over Greece

01 April 2015 / 18:04:18  GRReporter
1373 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Outdated equipment for air traffic control in combination with the reduced number of air traffic controllers limits the opportunities for a greater development of tourism, thus depriving Greece of revenue. At a special press conference, President of the Association of Air Traffic Controllers in Greece Spyros Rolakis said that the electronic control system for aviation safety in Greece was installed 24 years ago, while according to world standards, it must be completely updated every 12 years.

"Due to outdated equipment we have to keep a distance of 10 nautical miles (18 km) between aircraft flying in Greek airspace and lose the opportunity for many flights in these way. By comparison, in most European countries, this distance is reduced by half, and they can serve many more flights," said the chairman of the association.

According to unionists, the cost of a new air traffic control system is 30-40 million euro. The price is low, accounting for the fact that the total revenue from the flights in Greek airspace amounted to 180 million euro in 2014 alone.

Although under EU law these funds must be used solely for the needs of aviation, the Greek state has been holding them for years, using them for different purposes.

At the same time, the number of air traffic controllers in Greece decreases every year. "In 2002 a staff of 707 air traffic controllers served 411,000 flights. In 2014 a staff of 550 air traffic controllers served 678,000 flights. This means that last year a 22% less staff served 65% more flights," said Rolakis.

It is expected that the number of air traffic controllers will decrease by 8% this year compared to the previous one, because new appointments do not replace retirements. "Last year, the Minister of Transport at the time promised to approve 32 appointments, but no competition for them has been announced yet, Rolakis said, adding that the service needs at least 100 new dispatchers. The trade unionist stressed that their salaries are paid from the proceeds of flights served and do not burden the state budget in any way.

The outdated control system and the reduced staff inevitably lead to delays of flights, forcing airlines to direct their flights to the air space of Greece’s neighbouring and competing countries.

"Three years ago we achieved zero delays and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation Eurocontrol sent a congratulatory letter to us and the Greek government, which described our achievement as a "Greek miracle". Last year we had delays, but they were not significant. Official estimates show that the traffic in the airspace of Greece will increase by 5% by the year 2022 on average. With today's lack of equipment and especially of staff, an increase seems impossible because safety is our most important task."

Rolakis stressed that by installing a new electronic control system Greece could triple the annual revenue from fees for overflying its airspace. However, it could be put into operation after three years because this is the period required to train air traffic controllers.

Tags: EconomyAir traffic controllersAviation safety control systemRadarOutdated equipmentTourism
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