Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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By G-JWTP
#1648122
Gonzo EGLL ,

In your opinion or official NATS hat if you prefer.

Why is there such a shortage of controllers at present?

Is it an obvious fix or is longer term strategic planning neccessary?

G-JWTP
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By GonzoEGLL
#1648129
G-JWTP wrote:Gonzo EGLL ,

In your opinion or official NATS hat if you prefer.

Why is there such a shortage of controllers at present?

Is it an obvious fix or is longer term strategic planning neccessary?

G-JWTP


I have no official NATS hat to wear right now, so if you want to hear the official NATS view, I suggest contacting them. :thumleft:

I will certainly give you my opinion on the UK ATCO shortage. It will be a repeat of what has been posted before on this forum, so I’ll be brief:

- Reirement bulge.
- NATS, over the years, condensing courses down and specialising at an earlier stage (many non-NATS airports would gratefully employ former NATS trainees who had completed the Tower course but then failed Approach Radar or Area. This ready supply of keen trainees ‘subsidised’ by NATS, who could then, after a few years, return and complete an Approach course dried up.
- Worldwide shortage which has meant a continuing outflow of controllers to the Middle East, Canada, Australia etc.
- Pensions freedoms mean some controllers are taking early retirement (some in their late 40s).
- Commercialisation of the Airport ATC market has seen contract changes at quite a few airports, so some controllers towards the latter years of their careers have chosen to retire rather than either move (if able) or continue under a new employer.
- Race to the bottom in terms of costs. Airports see ANSPs as a significant cost, because their airline customers are committed to reducing any cost they incur to allow for £10 ticket prices. If airlines put enough pressure on their airports to reduce costs, the airports will pass on that pressure to their ANSP tender process. Incumbent ANSP then feels they have to attempt to meet the customer expectation or lose the contract.
- Reduction in NATS recruitment a few years ago, allied to a pretty aggressive voluntary redundancy programme.
The CAA’s report under Project Oberon http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/201 ... dacted.pdf might be interesting. The TL/DR is on pages 5 and 6.
- Whole situation not helped by some airlines who, as shareholders, have a high level of influence over the amount NATS can charge (ie revenue). Airlines want route charge costs to be low for them to maximise their own revenue, but those who own shareholdings in NATS also want return as a dividend, so those at the coal face get squeezed by both ends.
More info: https://www.atcos.co.uk/wp-content/uplo ... P-1593.pdf
And
https://www.atcos.co.uk/wp-content/uplo ... sponse.pdf

To summarise, lots of factors.

A ‘perfect storm’.

Training pipeline going at maximum.

No quick fix.
Last edited by GonzoEGLL on Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By G-JWTP
#1648135
Thanks,

I was at Swanwick a few weeks ago and got the ' official' NATS answer.

It was a little different from yours.

G-JWTP.
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By PaulB
#1648136
G-JWTP wrote:I was at Swanwick a few weeks ago and got the ' official' NATS answer.


So what was their rationale?
By Mike Tango
#1648141
Good summary from Gonzo.

Worth noting that the training pipeline is also much smaller than it used to be. It would be impossible within the current college environment to put through the same number of ab initio students that used to go through Bournemouth.

Then, at least amongst the longer serving cadre of unit based on the job training instructor cadre, there are good reasons to give up instructing, not do more of it.

Rest assured though that at some point in the future, once this crisis is worked through and forgotten, it will be repeated.

GonzoEGLL wrote:.

A ‘perfect storm’.

Training pipeline going at maximum.

No quick fix.
GonzoEGLL, Flyin'Dutch' liked this
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By GonzoEGLL
#1648142
Worth noting that the training pipeline is also much smaller than it used to be. It would be impossible within the current college environment to put through the same number of ab initio students that used to go through Bournemouth.


Very true. When the training pipeline was cut off, it’s max theoretical capcity was also reduced significantly.
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By CloudHound
#1648146
In terms of NERL, will technology currently in development together with SES/Eurocontrol initiatives do anything to reduce the demand for staff?
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By GonzoEGLL
#1648149
That’s the intention. Whether it delivers on that I guess we’ll see.

This was one of the issues highlighted in the Project Oberon report by the CAA; that VR was granted on the assumption that technology and airspace redesign would reduce headcount requirement. That didn’t turn out to be the case (airspace didn’t change anything, and technology was delayed).
By G-JWTP
#1648150
PaulB wrote:
G-JWTP wrote:I was at Swanwick a few weeks ago and got the ' official' NATS answer.


So what was their rationale?



We were told that there wasn't enough applicants of a suitable skillset.
Qualifications were not as important as aptitude.
To many people do not think that ATC as a career.
Higher earnings elsewhere, especially for trainees.
Job is not 'sexy' ( my paraphrase).
No body wants to do shift work especially the young who have social lives.
Perception of a high stress environment.

These were the main ones.

G-JWTP
User avatar
By PaulB
#1648152
G-JWTP wrote:We were told that there wasn't enough applicants of a suitable skillset.
Qualifications were not as important as aptitude.
To many people do not think that ATC as a career.
Higher earnings elsewhere, especially for trainees.
Job is not 'sexy' ( my paraphrase).
No body wants to do shift work especially the young who have social lives.
Perception of a high stress environment.


That's certainly plausible, isn't it?
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By rikur_
#1648154
Just to add my own decision process to that list
- Having to live away from home for the college part of the training
- Having no say where I would get posted once qualified
(nb: I have since been told that I probably would have been able to influence where I got posted, but that wasn't what NATS recruitment people told me at the time)

Had I been able to apply for a job at the Manchester centre I'd have gone for it when I was younger (which I know with hindsight wouldn't have ended well!).
Nowadays - whilst I could apply to a local non-NATS unit .... family life rules out training, so clearance delivery is my limits!
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By GonzoEGLL
#1648157
G-JWTP wrote:
PaulB wrote:
G-JWTP wrote:I was at Swanwick a few weeks ago and got the ' official' NATS answer.


So what was their rationale?



We were told that there wasn't enough applicants of a suitable skillset.
Qualifications were not as important as aptitude.
To many people do not think that ATC as a career.
Higher earnings elsewhere, especially for trainees.
Job is not 'sexy' ( my paraphrase).
No body wants to do shift work especially the young who have social lives.
Perception of a high stress environment.

These were the main ones.

G-JWTP


Hmm, I think we’ve answered subtly different exam questions. These are reasons why recruitment is challenging, not why there’s a nationwide, and indeed global, staffing shortage.

To be fair there are genuine issues there....trainee pay among them. However, I’d argue ‘‘twas errr thus. I was on the recruitment team from 2002 to 2009, and apart from the relative increase and decrease of initial trainee pay, nothing else has changed since then.

If you care to read the NATS Interviews thread in another PPlace, which has over 10k posts, in mid October the Jan/Feb courses were full, so I don’t think getting enough people through the selection process is a bottleneck.
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