ATCO shortage, Isle of Man Airport /EGNS runway closure

Source: Isle of Man Airport/EGNS

At present our runway is closed daily between:

⁉️Why? To meet the minimum requirements for ATCO rest periods whilst maximising training availability.
Why the recent change? We’ve needed short-term closures for some time because of the numbers of qualified staff available, but recently this number has changed again. When we are open, we also need to maximise every opportunity to train. We do everything we can to minimise the disruption to the flying public and we discuss and review these decisions a lot!

⁉️ Why are your numbers so low? We do need more air traffic controllers for resilience, but if all the controllers we do have were fully qualified, we wouldn’t need the closure periods. However, training air traffic controllers takes a long time; 3-4 years for student controllers with no ATC background and even controllers relocating from other airports can take 12-18 months or more depending on their experience. Air traffic controllers are also in high demand across the UK, so attracting them to our lovely island can be a challenge. We know mentioning BREXIT and COVID can make some people roll their eyes, but both of these have also played a role in our challenges.
❓What are we doing about it? We’ve recruited! We’ve already welcomed one experienced controller who is busy training and we hope to have another in the Autumn, both of whom replace staff leaving us. We’ll also be welcoming 3 new student air traffic controllers in the Autumn following a very competitive and popular local recruitment campaign. These new staff members are excellent news, but we mustn’t overload our training staff who need to keep their own skills sharp.
 ❓ How long will this go on for? This is likely to go on for a few months over the Summer period. We keep our airlines and operators updated regularly and are doing our best to mitigate the impacts.  
✈️ Important to note: We are not alone in this situation, with other airports having to take similar action. Aviation is a complex system with many factors affecting flight schedules and we will continue to do everything we can to resolve the issues.

Editors comment: IoM is not the first airport in resent months to be forced to introduce restrictions to operations due to ATCO shortages, several airports across Europe are known to have found themselves in this situation. Explanations put forward have included the post COVID lag in training coupled with normal retirements during that period.

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