By KELIN DILLON
Following a near collision between two of Mexican airline Volaris’ planes at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) on Saturday, May 7, members of the federal government and the aviation industry met to add “order to the airport system,” subsequently agreeing to lower the AICM’s operations by 25 percent and adding yet another layer of controversy to the ongoing issues with Mexico’s airspace.
According to Undersecretary of Transportation Rogelio Jiménez Pons, a Volaris aircraft needed to abort its landing due to another Volaris plane already occupying the runway space, an incident Jiménez Pons chalked up to controller errors.
“It seems that it was because a controller gave the instruction and the shift change was made,” said Jiménez Pons. “The workers must have optimal conditions. If something goes wrong, it must be corrected immediately.”
After the incident, Víctor Manuel Hernández resigned from his post as the head of Navigation Services in the Mexican Air Space (Seneam), though his four-year term was mired with controversies, from eliminating air traffic control positions key for airspace functionality to unjustly firing controllers out of retaliation.
Following the meeting between government officials and aviation businessmen, the Mexican federal government’s Twitter announced that the group had “agreed to order the airport system of Mexico City” without providing further details about what changes would be implemented.
This isn’t the AICM’s first brush with danger in recent months. According to daily Mexican newspaper Reforma and airspace experts, the airport’s runway design – which was done to accommodate the contentious Felipe Ángeles International Airport – has doubled the amount of airspace incidents from three per 1,000 operations to six per 1,000 operations. In addition, National Union of Air Traffic Controllers (Sinacta) leader Alfredo Covarrubias said that the AICM’s air incidents have increased by 300 percent since the redesign, an issue further exacerbated by long working hours, abuses of power and failures in the airport’s communication equipment.
“Before it was a scandal to have an incident among the controllers. It was widely discussed,” said Covarrubias, adding that the AICM has experienced 10 major incidents across the past four months and is missing some 300 controllers to operate safely and efficiently. “Right now, these incidents are being taken as normal and the controllers prefer not to report when things happen because there are retaliations.”
With increasing reports of the mistreatment and the arbitrary punishment of air traffic controllers across the country – only contributing to the incident rate – Mexico’s newfound “order” to the AICM may be germane to implement nationwide.