AN air traffic controller has warned of a surge in air traffic ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly, which Zimbabwe will co-host with Zambia in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
Evans Makuku, president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association of Zimbabwe (ATCAZ) said members were bracing for an increase in air traffic caused by the tourism indaba.
Air traffic controllers have a critical responsibility of maintaining safe, expeditious and orderly movement of aeroplanes.
"Members must remain focused and brace up for a busy spell as we gear ourselves for the UNWTO general assembly," Makuku said. "Controllers must always bear in mind the guiding and strategic objectives of the industry - safety and efficiency. (The) goal number one (is) safety."
The UNWTO general assembly, which will bring together representatives from 186 member countries, will run from August 24 to 29 in the resort towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone in Zambia.
"Our motto is 'Always total vontrol'. We are always dealing with complex traffic situations in our daily duties. We managed the increased volumes of traffic during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa," Makuku said.
He added: "It must be noted that most flights from Europe pass through our airspace en route to South Africa and are under the control of local controllers in our airspace. Actually, we handle more over-flyers than flights terminating in Zimbabwe."
Makuku said ATCAZ, which is part of a global family, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) representing more than 50 000 air traffic controllers from over 135 countries worldwide, was ready to defend Zimbabwe's long standing safety record during the international tourism showcase.
In July 2011, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) released a report of the Audit Results Review Board (ARRB) which listed 25 African States having significant safety concerns (SSC's) or lack of effective implementation of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARP's). Zimbabwe was one of only three southern African States that do not appear on that list.
"This is adequate evidence of the high level of competence that we have among our members. We do have the necessary expertise, skills, knowledge and experience to maintain our safety record and improve even further," Makuku told The Financial Gazette's Companies & Markets.
He said air traffic control was a highly demanding, safety sensitive profession, adding that there was a need for the Civil and Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) to improve air traffic controllers' conditions of service.
"Controllers, in their daily duties, are juggling with costly equipment and lives, lives of important people. Air traffic control requires concentration, quick thinking and quick decision making. This may be difficult when the controller on duty is concerned by welfare issues," said Makuku.
He said ATCAZ was ready for the event and it was now up to CAAZ management to create a conducive environment before the important event so that air traffic controllers could do their work to the best of their abilities without distractions.