Düsseldorf: Shortage of air traffic controllers may cause delays
Today, the DFS has warned that staffing shortages at the Langen control centre will cause bottlenecks or delays that may occur in the coming months in the airspace above North Rhine-Westphalia and at Düsseldorf Airport.
The current situation can be attributed to the inaccurate traffic forecasts made after the terror attacks of September 11. At that time, a much lower growth in air traffic volume had been forecast than later turned out to be the case.
In addition, there were staff shortages in the control sectors responsible for traffic in the airspace above North Rhine-Westphalia. On the one hand, these problems resulted from absences of staff due to illness, pregnancy and disability, while on the other hand agreements made at the time with the union exacerbated the situation.
It takes approximately four years to train an air traffic controller from the time they are recruited until they acquire their licence. In North-Rhine Westphalia, however, it takes even longer due to the airspace complexity. This airspace is one of the most complex in Europe because of the large airports such as Düsseldorf and Cologne, the terminal areas of the airports of Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Brussels and several smaller airports.
Transferring controllers from locations with fewer staffing problems to areas with greater need is not an option due to the different licensing and training requirements. Not only DFS, but all of Europe, is suffering from a shortage of controllers.
To overcome this challenge, DFS has intensified its training efforts. It is also hiring ready entries; these are air traffic controllers who have already completed their training abroad and only need to acquire the necessary licences in Germany.
In spring 2010, the airspace between Frankfurt and Amsterdam was optimised in cooperation with the Dutch air navigation service provider. This programme is called AMRUFRA, an acronym for Amsterdam, Ruhr and Frankfurt. The airspace was made a little less complex in order to meet the growing traffic volume and to prevent bottlenecks in this highly complex and busy airspace.