Two air traffic controllers test positive. These professionals manage critical infrastructure for the State and are not interchangeable between dependencies.
The coronavirus has hit one of the critical state infrastructure: airports. Enaire has communicated this afternoon that two controllers from the Barcelona Control Center have tested positive for coronavirus. After detecting both cases, the manager has activated level 3 of the planned plan of measures to minimize the risk of contagion, while ensuring operational continuity. Level 3 of Enaire’s coronavirus protocol is the most extreme. Contemplate from the travel banr and access to its premises of all persons outside the company until the obligation that Any employee of one of the air control units that comes from an area where there are confirmed cases passes a quarantine of 14 days.
According to Enaire, “the controllers with whom they had close and continuous contact have been perfectly identified” those affected. Enaire assures that it is communicating with them and “withdrawing them from the service, following the recommendations of the health authorities, who appeal to the responsibility and they advise extreme precautions. The rest of the controllers who coincided during the shift will also be subject to the required monitoring, “the company concludes in a note.
The group of controllers is especially sensitive because, as Enaire assures in its action plan against the coronavirus, operates “critical infrastructure and essential services” for aviation and air transport and, therefore, “for the security of the country and economic and social stability”. A circumstance that, according to Enaire, makes “absolutely necessary to maintain the maximum operability and continuity of the company’s services against possible incidents and contingencies.” And it is also due to the particularities of the profession. Although the controllers have a common training, they are subsequently specifically trained to receive the rating and work in a specific center or tower. Therefore, it is not possible to replace members of one tower or center with those of another. In the case of CataloniaIn addition, the situation is even more complicated because for years templates have dragged a professional deficit that could not be covered yet. The Barcelona control center, moreover, is a complicated unit because it controls the Mediterranean arc, a problematic traffic area, with continuous takeoffs and landings, and planes that go up and down continuously.
To minimize the risk of contagion of the coronavirus in such a sensitive group, the Union of Air Traffic Controllers, USCA, has proposed to “immediately” reduce the number of sectors to 50% in Enaire control centers and analyze each case in the towers, where he believes the capacity cut should be similar. In this sense, he considers that it would be “convenient” to modify schedules according to the different controllers, to avoid interactions between teams. In this way, 50% of the remaining workforce would be on hold outside the unit, that is, reachable and available to join the service at any time. Subgroups of each team would be formed so that they always work with the same subgroup.