GABATCO to seek airlines’ help to pressure government

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Air traffic controllers are considering seeking the assistance of the local airlines association to pressure the government to acquire and install a new aircraft navigation system.
The Guild of Antigua and Barbuda Air Traffic Controllers (GABATCO) told OBSERVER media that the Very High-Frequency Omni-Directional Range (VOR) at the V. C. Bird International Airport has been down since around July.
GABATCO said flights are still landing at the airport, despite being forced to use antiquated equipment to guide the flights in, and there is seemingly no urgency to replace the equipment.
“The airlines, the flights are still getting here and air traffic is still being moved. I think the only time someone will listen is when air traffic grinds to halt and the airlines realise that something is happening and then they will commit. For now, the flights are still getting here,” GABATCO said.
Passengers flying into Antigua for the upcoming winter season were warned that they should be prepared for delays with planes landing if air traffic controllers here don’t get a new aircraft navigation system.
The system that is now offline was commissioned over 30 years ago and is beyond its repair life.
The air traffic controllers said the piece of equipment is pivotal to guiding planes into the airport for landing and in its absence, controllers have had to use antiquated technology to guide planes safely to the runway.
The body said the government and the airlines are aware of the situation.
“For starters, they know that we do not have any radar, that is a given but still the flights get here.
Now they know that we do not have a VOR and the [flights] still get here because we have an R-NAV approach that is based on satellite and GPS, the modern aircrafts can use that, but, we still need the VOR because it’s not all the planes can do the R-NAV approach,” GABATCO said.
The body pointed to one example where a flight was delayed because the selected aircraft had to be changed since it could not do either approach.
Air traffic controllers have lamented that the NDB is being phased out and it is being operated here with no backup power and it would not work during a thunderstorm
GABACTO said this was amongst a list of issues outlined in letters dispatched to the government and they are now awaiting acknowledgment and a response.
Yesterday, OBSERVER media tried without success to contact the head of the airline association to see what position the organisation would take on the issue.

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