October 19, 2021

The Editor speaks: Jump before the gun goes off?

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Colin Wilson

I have to confess I was surprised to read our Leader of the Opposition, Ezzard Miller’s , “deep concern” over currently progressing overseas recruitment of a relatively large batch of air traffic controllers (ATCs), pending award of two-year contracts by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA). See iNews Cayman’s article published Feb 19 2019 “Cayman Islands Opposition raises concerns about overseas aviation recruitment” at: https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/cayman-islands-opposition-raises-concerns-about-overseas-aviation-recruitment/

The article continues:

“Mr. Miller has called for a review of the recruitment plan, and the withdrawal and replacement of the two-year contracts with temporary employment terms. That adjustment would facilitate the launch of a recruitment and training drive to enable Caymanians to replace the selected incoming overseas officers as soon as possible, the Leader of the Opposition said.

“According to sources, the overseas recruitment drive is seeking to increase the staff complement by more than 50%. This compares to a workload increase of 3.4% in aircraft movements in 2017.

“Statistics for 2018 have not been published, but partial figures for the year suggest a similarly very minor increase for that year, while 2016 air traffic increased by approximately 1.8% and 2015 decreased by approximately 1%. (See statistics for international, domestic and private aircraft movements at:

https://www.caymanairports.com/ceos-welcome/statistics/;

and note that Cayman Brac’s 2017 figures were unavailable on the online data.)

“Based on these figures, aircraft movements for 2016, 2017 and 2018 combined should not exceed 10%,” Mr. Miller said, “still not significant enough to warrant increasing the staff complement by more than 50%.”’

Miller concludes with, ‘“I is ironic and totally unacceptable that rather than training our own people we are seeking to invest in the initiation and further training of an influx of new controllers,” he said, adding: “It never fails to astonish me how short-sighted we continue to be, to our people’s detriment.”

My surprise at all this is because I can remember publishing many press releases on our Caymanian Air Traffic Controllers recruitment, training and employment at our airports. I have also wondered at how the CIAA was coping with all the additional aircraft landing here, most around the same time of day.

I waited for a response. It was not long coming.

A press release from The Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) was in my email iIn Box before I could have my breakfast. We have published it in full today – see “Cayman Islands Air Traffic Controllers Recruitment”.

The release does not mention Mr. Miller’s release but it does address very well all of his concerns.

It starts with, “The CIAA has been actively recruiting Caymanians to fill the role of Air Traffic Controllers on a continuous basis for many years”. It then goes into the specifics.

It also mentions the stringent regulatory requirement for minimum staffing levels in accordance with UK CAA CAP 670 Part D. A copy of these requirements was also enclosed and we published it, too.

From the PR:

“In Quarter 1 of 2015, two local Air Traffic Control Assistants attended overseas training in Trinidad & Tobago, and were successful in both theoretical and practical on the job training, and were validated for regular duty in the Charles Kirkconnell Internal Airport (CKIA) ATC unit in Quarter 4 of 2016.

With their success, the CIAA transferred two existing Cayman Brac ATCOs from CKIA to ORIA to complement that unit, in an attempt to meet the stringent regulatory requirement for minimum staffing levels in accordance with UK CAA CAP 670 Part D

Unfortunately, only one of those transferred officers was successful in obtaining an ORIA unit competency.”

The PR then lists all the requirement drives the CAA have initiated. It also states “ATCO shortages is an acute global phenomena, affecting developed and under- developed nations equally.” this is something iNews Cayman has also reported.

Conclusions from PR:

“The best case planning scenario for the qualification and validation of an ATCO is 24 months, with the average being 28 months over the past five years, broken down as follows:

CIAA on boarding & familiarization: 3 months AB Initio training (local to the Cayman Islands): 9 months Overseas Training Secondment: 7 months On-the-Job-Training: 9 months (average, but not less than 6 months)

The offer of a two year contract is based on the expectation that after two years local candidates will be at an advanced stage of qualification and will subsequently be able to fulfil the obligations of the post. It is neither advantageous nor prudent to pay for contracted services, whenever local candidates are available.”

Finally:

“The CIAA has evidenced our commitment to recruiting and training our local population by its current employee head-count of 196 employees, with exactly one Work-Permit holder.

Both The CIAA and The Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands have identified an immediate need for additional officers and in response to these regulatory requirements, the CIAA is pursuing the short term (two year) mitigation by employing experienced ATCOs through contracted services, to whom it will have no long term commitments.”

I am pleased to report the horse only jumped and did not bolt before the gun went off.

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