Tag: ATC Strike (page 1 of 2)

OPSGROUP featured on Al Jazeera

As a group of 4000 pilots, dispatchers, and controllers, we stand for safety ahead of commerce. Al Jazeera interviewed our founder, Mark Zee, about the current risk in Ethiopian airspace created by the ATC strike, and why we care so much about getting the truth out to our members.


ATC Strike over, but nine Ethiopian Air Traffic Controllers remain in jail

5th September, update:

As of this morning, most controllers have returned to work. Some concessions made by ECAA. Addis ACC and TWR are again staffed with qualified controllers, so the safety situation, for now, is restored. However, 9 remain in jail. Returning controllers were forced to sign an ‘admission’ of illegal strike action in return for amnesty. IATA In Flight Broadcast Procedure requirement for Addis FIR remains in place, meaning you must broadcast on 126.9 as in other areas of concern in Africa. Further as we get it.


4th September:

Last week we were one of the first to expose the attempted ATC Strike cover up by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority.

As a reminder, untrained and uncertified foreign controllers, retired and local non-operational ATC personnel are being used to control air traffic over Ethiopia. 

It is a catastrophic misjudgement, creating a safety risk in the Addis FIR and at Ethiopian Airports for pilots and passengers alike.

Here are some more updates since our last article:

  • On August 29, The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Association (IFATCA) penned a letter to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. You can read it here.
  • The neighbouring controllers in Kenya warned that flights in and out of Addis Ababa are not safe. You can view their letter here – specifically they warned that the ‘possibility of air misses’ is real.
  • The ECAA over the weekend rejected concerns regarding the safety of Ethiopian airspace, specifically calling the claims from Kenya as “outright lies.”  The ECAA has said that ATC are operating “in accordance with ICAO Annex 1 provisions.” They did not deny however that foreign and retired ATC are being used.
  • The ECAA also outlined that the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has “awarded” veteran Air Traffic Controllers,  who are performing their national obligation.
  • However on Monday, the local state affiliated broadcaster, Fana BC, reported that the Federal Police Commission had detained nine individuals on suspicion of attempting to disrupt international flights and coordinating a strike that began last week. This has been quickly condemned on social media, as many locals called on the government to resolve the issues raised by the ATCs rather than resorting to intimidation.

The ECAA claims that “some” of the striking controllers have returned to work.

Major airlines and uninformed passengers continue to fly into and over Ethiopia and this continues to be a major safety risk.

Do you have more to add this story?  Please, let us know!

Ethiopia risking flight safety to cover up ATC strike

  • Ethiopian ATC on strike, no Notams, government hush up
  • OPSGROUP alert for the  Addis Ababa FIR
  • Airspace risk – unrated controllers, some foreign and unfamiliar

Air Traffic Controllers are on strike in Ethiopia
, and Ethiopia would prefer that you don’t know this. We, as OpsGroup, would prefer that you do.

Ethiopia would also prefer that it has no impact on the flight operations of its national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines. Therefore, they have drafted in foreign controllers to replace the strikers, issued no Notams, hushed any publicity, and proactively declared ‘operations normal’ (complete with bizarre, hand drawn airplanes).

European airlines – and frustrated passengers – will watch with great interest, thanks to their own ATC strike woes: regular stoppages by French, Italian, and Greek controllers have this summer, once again, been the source of massive cancellations, reroutes, and delays. Has Ethiopia found the golden elixir, the magic solution to a long-running problem? Is this how to handle a strike by your nations’ Air Traffic Controllers?

It absolutely is not. It is a catastrophic misjudgement, creating a safety risk in the Addis FIR and at Ethiopian Airports for pilots and passengers alike. Ethiopian airspace, this week, is most definitely not ‘operations normal’ – it is unpredictable and unsafe, staffed by unrated, inexperienced controllers, many from abroad – evidenced already by alarming reports of close calls from adjacent Area Control Centers – read on.

The facts are this: faced with an upcoming strike by ATC, Ethiopian Airlines – now Africa’s largest airline –  formed what in the boardroom might have seemed a workable plan: Recruit a bunch of controllers from other countries, fly them in to Addis, and have them do the work of the striking staff.

The first batch of foreign controllers came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a small group described by the local controllers, unsurprisingly, as mercenaries. When the strike started at 7am this past Monday morning, they were ready to go. Not content with stopping there, the requests from ECAA – the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority – for more external controllers went out thick and fast, like an Ambien fuelled shopping spree on Amazon. 30 requested from Sudan, 24 from Kenya. More from Zimbabwe, Malawi. Finding those requests rejected, and resistance from other ATC agencies, the biggest request yet: 120 controllers from ASECNA.

The plan, commercially, is understandable. The wish to keep their airplanes flying is not endemic to Ethiopian Airlines. British Airways, Ryanair and Easyjet, have all made very public their frustrations with ATC strikes. An association, A4E, was formed to fight the problem at European level.

But here’s why the Ethiopian solution doesn’t work.

And as a former Air Traffic Controller, and Airline Pilot, I can tell you why.

Air Traffic Control is complex. That’s not a secret. On average, it takes a controller three months to gain a ‘rating’, or qualification, for a specific piece of airspace; that’s how long it takes to become comfortable with the 4D picture in front of you to provide a flawless ATC service. More complex airspace could take six months.

You have to learn each corner of your bit of sky. Learn the rules of the sector, learn the agreements you have with other centres about how you will receive and present traffic at the boundary. But the most important thing you learn is how the traffic flows.

ATC is not an aerial traffic battle whose landscape changes each day. It is not a web of complex contrails that, seen from the ground, appear to merge and diverge at random. The traffic flow is a largely predictable set of events, where the same airlines are operating on the same routes – providing a basis for us, as controllers, to learn the patterns of the flow, and to learn a trick for every trajectory.

This is key. It’s been 15 years since I worked the North Atlantic flow in Shannon, but I remember the callsigns, the flows, and how to handle them, like an indelible challenge and response game in my mind.

Shamrock 37J, airborne Shannon” : “direct to Strumble, climb him to 270”.
“Belfast departure for Tenerife” : “stop him low, get him under the NAT traffic”.
“Two converging at LIFFY” : “Drop the Speedbird, he’s for Manchester”.

Humans learn patterns. This is how ATC works. We fill a bucket full of “stuff we’ve seen before”, leaving us free to concentrate on the few things we haven’t. This is the flow. If you watch 737’s fly up the Hudson on a hot summer morning, this is the La Guardia flow. Not an inch left or right. Heading into Amsterdam? “Direct to Pampus, down to FL70”.  One after another.

This is why we need three months to learn the airspace. For the flow. And this is why, when I found myself in New Zealand, learning to operate as an Air Traffic Controller far away from Shannon, I was floundering, like one of those dreams where you running but standing still. I am a controller, but I can’t control. I don’t know the airspace, and I don’t know the flow. Slowly, over the months, geography takes shape, traffic patterns show themselves, situations become seen. I start to get a sense of distance and time on my scope – or scopes, because New Zealand is long and thin I have to reorientate my thinking north-south, rather than east-west, as in Shannon. Out of the mist of training, I am a controller again, but it takes time. A lot of time.

Ultimately, I can reach the point where I can do my job – the real job of an Air Traffic Controller – to be familiar enough with the airspace and traffic that I have “the picture”. The full situational awareness, with most climbs, descents, speeds, and vectors being routine and familiar, means I can spot the something that’s off, wrong, going to develop into a conflict, and do so intuitively, like a sixth sense. Air Traffic Control is an art, it’s a dance. You don’t do it by complex calculations in your head, you don’t need a computer. It’s the visual in front of you – radar or tower – coming to life in your brain, you feel it, and the solution becomes instinctive.

And this is why you can’t bus in a set of replacement controllers, shuffle them down the corridor into the radar room, and up the stairs to the tower, and expect a safe, efficient, and orderly flow of traffic.

Controllers know the power of the strike. In most countries, it is used rarely, and fairly. They understand the impact on airlines and passengers. There are many other forms of industrial action a controller can take – like a training ban, an overtime ban – before reaching the point of actually stopping work.

Commerce will always find a way to continue. Safety is different, and delicate. It must be nurtured and protected. When the two collide head on – the commerce of keeping an airline flying, vs. the safety of an established, effective Air Traffic Control system – safety must take precedence. Here, safety means accepting the strike, as is – and working with the controllers, quickly, to find a solution. Let them be heard.


We’ll keep this page updated with the latest situation on the Ethiopian ATC strike. Reports that we have received so far are as follows:

  • Controllers in adjacent ACC’s are reporting lack of adherence to Letters of Agreement – seeing aircraft with 4 minutes instead of 10 minutes separation.
  • RA reported by Kenya ATC between two airlines on Wednesday.
  • Kenya and Sudan reported loss of separation and poor coordination and transfer of traffic at their FIR boundaries with Ethiopia.
  • Retired and Management controllers, who appear to have never rated or validated in position, are also being used, though unqualified for Addis.

We were first alerted to this issue by a Fox. Many of you know that we are Fixing Notams. The lack of Notams in this situation, is an exceptionally clear example of point 1 in the “Why” of the Notam Problem. Sometimes, we can’t trust the state to tell the truth. And this is a clear example.

Thankfully, our network of Foxes – undercover ATCO’s, pilots, and dispatchers –  is growing, and reporting on things just like this, so that we can tell you what’s really going on. Keep reporting.

Further reading

  • Tell us anything additional we should know – news@ops.group
  • Monitor #ops-alerts in your member Dashboard, and Slack.
  • Contact the author: Mark Zee.


Italy ATC strike CANCELLED

Update 17 July: The 24hr ATC strike planned for July 21 has now been CANCELLED.

Controllers at all the ACC sectors were planning to take part, and additional strikes were planned at the local level at at the following airports: LIRA/Rome Ciampino, LIRF/Rome Fiumicino, LIEE/Cagliari, LICC/Catania, LICA/Lamezia, LICJ/Palermo, LIBP/Pescara, LIPZ/Venice

But now the strike has been cancelled. Normal ops now expected at all ACC’s and airports across the country.

Further reading:

  • All the latest official information about Italy ATC strikes can be found here. Just make sure you have your Google Translate tool enabled on your browser!

French ATC strike 22 May – this one’s looking bad

Impact from todays ATC French strike is looking worse than usual.

As things stand at 0600Z, there are a total of 400,000 delay minutes attributed to ATC Industrial Action in the ATC system for Europe,  an average of 20 minutes for every flight in Europe. That average is calculated for all 22,000 aircraft that will operate today in Europe, so assuming at most 2000 flights would operate through French airspace, it works out at around 220 minutes delay for every aircraft. And yep, finishing off the maths, that’s about 4 hours.

Those figures are pretty fluid because the good people at NM (CFMU) work really hard to reroute flights around the worst of it, but it’s safe to say, if you are operating in, over, near, or thinking about France today, you will have a pretty decent delay.

See below for the best places to get updates on todays strike.

Further reading:


Italy ATC Strike announced for May 8th

All airports in Italy and all ACC’s are planning a strike for Tuesday May 8th, from 08-16Z. Overflights, and intercontinental flights (eg US arrivals) are exempt. Expect disruption on the ground at all airports all day.

On strike from 11-15z:
-The ACC’s: LIBB/Brindisi, LIMM/Milano and LIPP/Padova.
-The airports: LIMC/Milan-Malpensa, LIEE/Cagliari, LICC/Catania, LIRA/Rome-Ciampino, LIBR/Brindisi, LICA/Lamezia Terme, LIMF/Turin and LICJ/Palermo.

On strike from 08-16z:
-The airports: LIRF/Rome-Fiumicino, LIRP/Pisa and LIRQ/Florence.

You can see the full Notam here. For updates, keep an eye on the Eurocontrol NOP page on the day of the strike.

Additional strikes are taking place by ground handlers at LIRP/Pisa, LIMC/Milano Malpsena, LIML/Milano Linate, LIRQ/Florence and LIPY/Ancona – so expect particularly big delays at those airports.

How to survive a French ATC strike

There’s a normal pattern to French ATC strikes – controllers who are unhappy about a range of issues (mainly salaries and labour reforms) announce they plan to take industrial action, Eurocontrol puts a plan in place to mitigate the disruption as best as possible, and airlines start cancelling flights – sometimes voluntarily, other times under the instruction to reduce their schedules.

The Notams that get published prior to these strikes are often the same, and tend to be fairly vague. That’s because they never know exactly how many staff will go on strike until the day itself, when they look around the control room and count the number of empty seats.

Generally though, the smaller airports tend to have the harshest restrictions applied, often with periods where no ATS services are provided at all. During the really big strikes, the larger airports can get hit pretty hard too, and when Notams start getting published saying “MINIMUM SERVICE GUARANTEED”, that’s when you know that things are getting serious – as that basically means that only 50% of FPLs are being accepted (the absolute minimum allowed under French law, regardless of whether or not a strike is taking place).

Each French ATC strike is different, but there are some things that are pretty much the same every time. Here is what you need to know, in order to survive!

Before the strike starts…

For the most accurate pre-tactical info on French ATC strikes, the Eurocontrol page is the best place to go. They will always publish the latest updates in the “Network Headline News” section at the top of the page. They even host teleconferences prior to the strikes, where a bunch of their ATC personnel jump on a call with airlines and other interested parties to discuss what they think will happen, and what plan they have come up with to mitigate disruption.

During the strike…

For real-time updates of any airspace issues once the strike has started, keep an eye on this handy French ATC webpage: http://dsnado.canalblog.com/

For smaller airports, best check the Notams directly, as they might get forgotten about in the deluge of information that gets published and endlessly updated for the other larger airports.


The advice about reroutes during French ATC strikes seems to be almost exactly the same every time. Always double-check the latest info on the Eurocontrol page just in case something is slightly different, but here’s a break-down of what to expect…

TANGO Routes
(Don’t know what these are? Read “The Three Sisters” for more info!)

All the Tango Routes are subject to higher than normal demand when strikes are on.

All flights intending to route to/from Canaries, Madeira and mainland Portuguese and Spanish destinations via the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area (OCA) are usually requested to flight plan via published routes T9, T213 or T16.

Westbound traffic to North/Central American destinations intending to enter the Shanwick OCA via entry points LASNO, TAMEL or OMOKO are usually requested to FPL via BEDRA in order to avoid those entry points associated with Tango routes.

Similarly, westbound traffic to North/Central American destinations and intending to enter the Shanwick OCA via entry points BEGAS, DIXIS, BERUX or PITAX are requested to FPL via PASAS.

Three other things to remember:
1. During the strike period, ATC normally won’t let you cross from one Tango Route to another.
2. If you’re entering the Shanwick OCA, you must have HF radio.
3. For oceanic clearance during the strike, you need to make sure you request your oceanic clearance 40 minutes before entry to the ocean.

Re-routes through Algeria
If you want to avoid French airspace by flying through DAAA/Algeria instead, you can do so – and until the end of the strike, you won’t have to get an overflight permit. Just make sure you send a new FPL (plus any subsequent DLA messages) to DAAAZQZX and DTTCZQZX addresses, as they will not have received the original FPL.

Depending on where you’re flying to/from, here’s what you need to do:

1. All traffic overflying DAAA/Algeria airspace with destination within the LECB/Barcelona FIR must file via point LUXUR at FL300 or above, and at only EVEN flight levels. (Traffic with destination LEPA/Palma via LUXUR should FPL UM134-LUXUR-GENIO-UN859-OSGAL with STAR OSGAL.)

2. All traffic departing from the LECB/Barcelona FIR and overflying DAAA/Algeria must file via point SADAF at FL310 or above, and at only ODD flight levels.

3. All traffic departing from LEPA/Palma to any airport in DAAA/Algeria must file max FL290 over point SADAF. Departures from LEPA/Palma must also file SID MEBUT: MEBUT-NINES-UM134-OLMIR-UN861-SADAF at FL290.

4. Entering GMMM/Morocco via DTTC/Tunisia and DAAA/Algeria:

  • Route: DOPEL UM126 KAWKA UG14 CSO UA31 CHE should be used. DAAA/Algeria ATC will tactically approve direct routing to ALR where possible.
  • Route: DOPEL DCT LUXUR SADAF CHE cannot be planned.

5. Entering DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia then LIRR/Italy from GMMM/Morocco:

  • Route: CHE UA31 CSO UG14 KAWKA UM126 DOPEL shall be used. DAAA/Algeria ATC will tactically approve direct routing from ALR where possible.
  • Route: Traffic between DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia via SADAF-KAWKA at FL300 and above (only even flight levels).

Re-routes through Tunisia
Tunisia also let operators fly through their airspace when there’s a French ATC strike on, without having to get a permit. Just make sure you copy your FPL (plus any subsequent DLA messages) to DTTCZQZX and DTTCZRZX.

Even when there’s no strike going on, there are a bunch of routes you can use through DTTC/Tunisia airspace that do not require overflight permission. These are:

a) Traffic between DTTC/Tunisia and DAAA/Algeria via DOPEL-LUXUR at FL310 and above (only ‘odd’ flight levels)

b) Traffic between DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia via SADAF-KAWKA-DOPEL at FL300 and above (only ‘even’ flight levels)

During the strike, they also open up routes connecting LMMM/Malta with DAAA/Algeria, for flights from Europe to Africa and South America. For that, you should file FPL using following routes:

  • Route: PAN – BIRSA – ELO (after ELO traffic can fly DCT GHA) at FL195-465 to be filed for traffic destination West Africa and South America, or
  • Route: PAN – RALAK – EBA at FL195-465 to be filed for traffic destination South/South West of Africa.

French ATC Strike March 2018

A French ATC strike is due to take place from 18z on Mar 21 until 05z on Mar 23, and it looks like it’s going to be a bad one.

En-route regulations are expected to applied across all sectors – which means big delays pretty much everywhere for overflying traffic. Minimum service will be guaranteed only at the following airports:

LFPG/Paris Charles de Gaulle
LFPO/Paris Orly
LFLC/Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne
LFBO/Toulouse Blagnac
and overseas airports

For all other airports, ATS services may not be provided at all at certain times – and you’ll probably need to check the airport’s own Notams for any signs of that.

For real-time updates of any airspace issues once the strike has started, keep an eye on this handy French ATC webpage: http://dsnado.canalblog.com/

And click here for everything else you need to know about how to survive French ATC strikes!

French Guiana ATC strikes continue

There seems to be no end in sight for the French Guiana ATC strikes. Here’s the current situation:

SOOO FIR: the entire airspace will be uncontrolled from 00-11z until further notice (extended beyond 01Dec).
That means there will be no ATC staff on duty during these times. Basically, during the closure, there’s a contingency plan in place: so if you want to cross this bit of airspace, there are now very specific routes and levels you have to fly at. Check these carefully prior to ops, and make sure you’re at the right flight level before crossing the FIR boundary. Once you’re inside the FIR, don’t change your speed or level.

To read the contingency plan in full, with all the published routes and what to do, click here.

TTZP/Piarco ATC (who control the FIR to the north) have said that everything has been running smoothly so far with this contingency plan, and they haven’t had any problems with directing overflying traffic from TTZP to SOOO.

SOCA/Cayenne Airport: the airport will be limited between 0100-1100Z until further notice.  This means you can’t file as an alternate, and if you’re arriving or departing during these times, you’ll need to call ATC for PPR at +594 35 92 72, or +594 39 93 02. 

We’ll keep this page updated with the latest news as we get it.

Iraq ATC strike – update

At 0800 local this morning, Iraqi controllers returned to work. For the last few days, Iraqi ATC had been on strike for better pay, effectively closing the Baghdad FIR and intermittently Baghdad and Basra airports. An 80nm in trail requirement has been removed. Military controllers, pictured above, who had been running ORBI/Baghdad Airport have completed their duties.

Local ATC controllers tell us that the strike is over – they are running what they call ‘ops normal’ for two weeks, before they will/may strike again as negotiations continue. Inside word is that a number of local controllers have been fired, and Serco were providing most of the staff to cover the centre. Baghdad FIR Control Centre and Iraqi Airports are running normally – for now.

We are still expecting the FAA to remove the restriction for US operators using the Baghdad FIR, this is a separate issue. No further news on that just yet.

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