Europe Hit By Wave Of Air Traffic Controller Strikes

air traffic controller
Mark Brouwer

The French air traffic controller union is on strike and will soon be followed by those of nine other European nations, the BBC reports.

The strike is being launched in protest against European Union plans to form regional blocs for air traffic control. It says this will be more efficient than the current national system and will reduce flight distances. The unions say it reduces national sovereignty and is a step towards privatization. They also say it would adversely affect their working conditions and flight safety.

Flights to and from France are already being affected, with easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Lufthansa the hardest hit. Tomorrow, air traffic controllers in the following countries will go on strike: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.

France will remain on strike tomorrow. RTÉ News reports that France’s civil aviation authority has requested that airlines cancel half their scheduled flights to Paris, Lyon, Nice, Marseilles, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

UPDATE: While it was widely reported in the international press that UK air traffic controllers would go on strike today, June 12, Gadling was contacted by NATS, the UK’s air navigation service provider, that they will not be going on strike. They have clarified their position in a press release.

Child directs airplanes from JFK air traffic control tower – FAA not amused


Bring your child to work day usually involves showing the little ones how your office looks, and letting them play with the water cooler. At New York JFK Airport, someone took things a little too far by letting a child issue commands to aircraft. In the video above, you can clearly hear the kid, with someone in the background telling him what to say.

Thankfully, the pilots all seem to find it rather funny, and I assume it brightened up their otherwise boring day. Sadly, the FAA doesn’t share their sense of humor, as a full investigation is underway to determine who did what, and why. The FAA had this to say:

Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic. This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees.

Even though rules were broken, I doubt airplanes were in any kind of danger during the short burst of entertainment from the tower.

FAA admits near-collision of two jets

Early in the morning on November 23, two jets coming in for landing at Denver International Airport had a near-miss, as one plane tried to make a U-turn into the path of the other, causing the jets to come within 200 feet of one another.

According to ABC News, one jet was in a line of planes coming in for landing. The other was on a parallel path, and needed to be guided in to the line. Air traffic controllers gave the second plane incorrect instructions though, requiring it to turn around to right in the path of the other plane. The plane’s collision avoidance system sounded an alarm, and the pilots were able to avoid the other plane.

ABC News quoted a source as saying that the two planes merged on the radar screen and came with “a blink of an eye” of each other. As is always the case with incidents like these, the FAA is investigating.

New FAA plane tracking computer off to a bad start

For years, the Federal Aviation Administration has been working on modernizing the computer systems that keep our skies safe.

Many of these systems have been in operation for over 30 years, and while the old “it it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” saying may apply to a lot of stuff, it isn’t really applicable to air traffic control.

One of the new systems being tested by the FAA is actually live in Salt Lake City. The “En Route Automation” computer system provides better flight management, and allows flight controllers to handle more aircraft, in a wider range than the current systems.

Sadly, the system is not entirely free of glitches, as a controller at Salt Lake City airport encountered last weekend. When monitoring a flight on its way to Texas, the screen suddenly changed the plane to one that had just landed.

The new system was immediately taken offline, and all planes were told to increase their distances between each other while the backup air traffic control computers were brought online.

The glitch has been identified and a fix will be applied. Obviously, a new system is needed to reduce delays in the sky, but if basic things like aircraft identification do not work correctly, there may be quite a bit of work necessary before the new system goes nationwide.