By Samisoni Pareti
Aviation safety has been seriously compromised with both Nadi and Nausori International Airports unable to provide correct air traffic control information to pilots of both departing and incoming aircraft, says Professor Biman Prasad, parliamentary leader of the National Federation Party.
He was responding to media reports about a dispute over pay rises and promotions that had forced many air traffic control officers in both Nadi and Nausori airports to stay away from work since Monday morning.
In a statement released this evening, Professor Prasad says he has been informed that both Nadi and Nausori Airports have been classified as Category G – which means pilots taking off or landing their aircraft are doing so at their own determination of aviation safety.
“They are not able to receive information from air traffic controllers due to acute shortage of staff. Both Nadi and Nausori airport control towers are severely under-manned by over-worked controllers. Further, training, recreational and helicopter flights have also been stopped,” says Professor Prasad.
“Aviation safety is seriously compromised. We have been informed pilots do not receive information about Fiji’s Flight Region that also covers regional airspaces. We are surprised that CAAF (Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji) that is supposed to be the regulatory body is silent on such a serious issue,” he adds.
The NFP leader says such a situation is unacceptable and he calls on the relevant agencies including the minister responsible for civil aviation to intervene to resolve the impasse.
“We question whether the CAAF Board, which is made up of non-aviation experts, understands the seriousness of the situation caused by Fiji Airport Limited’s handling of the employment issues of air traffic controllers.”
“Worse, the Minister responsible for Civil Aviation, who is the Attorney General is also silent. Ironically, he is also responsible as Public Enterprises Minister for Fiji Airport Limited whose Executive Chairman’s handling of talks with air traffic controllers has worsened the situation.”