Pilots’ representatives are recommending that an in-flight broadcast procedure be extended to Ethiopian airspace to enhance safety during industrial action by air traffic controllers.

Safety concerns over the region have sparked a furious exchange between Ethiopian regulators and the neighbouring Kenyan air traffic control association.

The in-flight broadcast procedure involves keeping a listening watch on a designated frequency, 126.9MHz, and transmitting clear position, altitude and airway updates to other traffic.

It also gives advice on operational issues such as altitude changes and collision avoidance.

Ten African flight information regions were listed in IATA’s original operational notice for the in-flight broadcast procedure.

These FIRs largely surround Ethiopian airspace, and the International Air Line Pilots’ Association – in a 31 August bulletin – says IATA is recommending that the affected region be expanded to include the Addis Ababa FIR until air traffic control “coverage difficulties” have been resolved.

As a result of the unplanned air traffic control work stoppage, says the association, aircraft “may no longer receive appropriate air traffic control instructions” from area control centres.

There are indications, it adds, that aircraft are entering adjacent Sudanese and Kenyan airspace “in an unco-ordinated manner”.

Kenya’s air traffic controllers association insists, in a 30 August document, that “several instances” of separation loss between aircraft crossing the airspace boundary with the Nairobi FIR.

These include, it claims, a “serious” conflict incident between a Boeing 767 and a Boeing 737 both operating at 36,000ft, which involved in the on-board collision-avoidance systems issuing resolution advisories.

The association also claims that retired controllers have been brought in to cover during the stoppage, but that they are not capable of handling the traffic and communication situation.

Ethiopia’s civil aviation authority has reacted indignantly to the Kenyan document, stating that it “fully and categorically rejects” the “false and baseless” statements, suggesting that Kenyan controllers are simply trying to undermine the Ethiopian authorities and “lend support to an illegal strike”.

It insists that the Addis Ababa centre is being manned by an “adequate number of well-trained, highly-capable instructors and professionals” who have the necessary ratings and validations.

“Similarly, the approach and aerodrome positions are also manned with professionals possessing all the qualifications,” it adds.

“The controllers that have come in for support or assistance following the illegal strike were all assigned with the necessary orientation and on-the-job trainings before they were released solo.”

The civil aviation authority accuses the Kenyan association of spreading “outright lies” and insists it has not received “any complaint by any airline” operating within Ethiopian airspace.

“All airlines are operating their scheduled and unscheduled flights smoothly, including our national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which has the largest operations in Africa,” it says. Some striking controllers have already returned to work, it adds.

Ethiopia’s regulators says it is working in “close collaboration” with the Kenyan civil aviation authority on cross-border flight co-ordination, and has warned that, if its Kenyan counterpart does not take “necessary action” against the Kenyan controller association, the Ethiopian civil aviation authority will “take the issue to the concerned international body”.

Source: Cirium Dashboard