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Airservices says it has enough ATC staff as hiring efforts continue

written by Jake Nelson | April 5, 2023

Airservices Australia has acknowledged “staff availability issues” in its air traffic control services, but insists it has more than enough ATCs to meet its requirements.

The ATC operator expects around 80 new trainees will become operational in the 2024 financial year, and is recruiting a further 140 for 2025, after which it plans to recruit an extra 80–140 trainees per year.

“Airservices employs more than 900 ATCs, 97 per cent of which are in operational roles. Airservices only requires about 800 ATCs to fully staff the ATC network,” said a spokesperson for Airservices in a statement.

“Rosters are tight in some areas as a component of the ATC workforce are currently unavailable for operational duties. These staff are either on long-term sick leave, parental leave, training for other ATC positions, or working on a project.”


Concerns have been growing for some time about staffing levels across Australia’s ATC network, with the professional body for Qantas pilots raising the alarm in January after a report in The Australian revealed 340 instances of “uncontrolled airspace” since June of 2022.

Additionally, in an internal Airservices report seen by the newspaper, the diversion from Sydney of a Qantas 787 in February — which left passengers stranded on the tarmac at Newcastle for seven hours, as the airport lacked adequate immigration facilities to process the incoming passengers from Santiago, Chile — was found to have resulted from three Sydney ATC staff being made to do the work of five, prompting an ATSB investigation.

Airservices says it is “future-proofing” its service delivery to provide more resilience in its rosters and to provide for further traffic increases as commercial aviation returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“Airservices acknowledges there have been staff availability issues due to a number of factors and embarks on regular recruitment drives to increase the intake of the number of trainees above our current workforce planning projections. This is designed to build greater redundancy into our staffing levels,” the spokesperson said.

“We are simultaneously reviewing the effectiveness of our air traffic control training regime, which has already resulted in an improvement in pass rates and further builds on the ab-initio training pipeline Airservices was able to maintain during COVID.”

The organisation also says it is well-prepared for the Easter school holidays.

“At current and forecast levels of air traffic during the busy Easter period, Airservices expects to meet demand for our air traffic management services and Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service (ARFFS) nationally,” the spokesperson said.

“We have key resilience and staffing measures in place, and we will continue to monitor the situation and review our protocols to keep Australia moving to ensure continued service delivery throughout this busy holiday time.”

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