The ITF reports that the safety of the country’s airspace is now in jeopardy, following a sustained government attack on the Dominican Air Traffic Controllers Association (ADCA).
ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez explained: “The Dominican Republic’s government appears to be hell-bent on breaking the ADCA, and silencing its warnings about deteriorating safety.”
He continued: “The kind of incidents that the ADCA has warned the authorities about include: a total communications failure in Punta Cana, with controllers coordinating by mobile phone; unserviceable navigation aids at La Isabela International Airport, forcing pilots to complete all approaches visually; the distance measuring equipment at El Catey Presidente Juan Bosch Airport going out of service; and the control tower at Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon International Airport working with only an emergency radio for over a year, and suffering frequent communications failures.”
The ITF reports that the ADCA has tried its best make the authorities address these and other safety issues. The response was and still is suspensions followed by sackings, demotions and retaliation against the air traffic controllers. This includes arrests of members making peaceful protests on three occasions in the last two weeks and the arrest of three of its officials last year. The ADCA has communicated with the office of the general director of the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation numerous times concerning safety related issues in the country’s air traffic control system – but has received no reply.
ITF Americas regional secretary Antonio Rodriguez Fritz will travel to the country tomorrow, Saturday 7 February, to support the air traffic controllers, and reiterate the message he has already conveyed to the government verbally and by letter, that it will have to live with the consequences of any accident resulting from its failure to act.
He commented: “This behaviour isn’t just hugely worrying, it’s getting worse. In air traffic control you cannot compromise on safety. It’s the golden rule. Well, in the Dominican Republic they are compromising.
“These attacks on the ADCA and its members must stop and be replaced with the social dialogue that is vital to re-establish safe, orderly and efficient air traffic services there.