Could Tanzania’s air traffic controller shortage impact safety?

Tanzania faces a shortage of 93 air traffic controllers, positions that must expediently be filled for the country to make meaningful inroads in the development of its aviation sector.

The country has 137 air traffic controllers against a demand for at least 230, the civil aviation manager at the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), Ms Mwanajuma Kombo, told The Citizen yesterday.

Ms Kombo, formerly an air traffic controller, revealed this last Friday on the sidelines of a meeting that also brought women who have perfomed outstandingly in different areas but have not been recognised. The meeting was organised by Women and Electronic in Tanzania (WOET).

A traffic controller normally gives flights landing and takeoff instructions to pilots, monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air. 

“To properly and safely instruct a pilot, the standard number of aircraft controllers should not be less than three, but in most circumstances we station two controllers to do the job,” he said. MsKombo, who is the first female air traffic controller in the country, said Tanzania was among the best tourists destination.

“This means most of the new and old airports will need their (air traffic controllers) services in the near future,” she said. She mentioned Bukoba, Manyara and Katavi airports as among those airports that need more controllers. Advertisement

“In some of the airports, pilots control themselves, this is risky,” she said. She said, for instance, during pick seasons the movement of aircraft at Seronera airport is not less than 80 airplanes per day.

 “I urge more women to venture into the aviation sector. So far, only 23 out of 137 air traffic controllers are women. Every year we enrol students in this sector but women’s response has been low,” she said.