By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
>Despite having failed admission exams, a recent internal air audit detected that more than a quarter of all air traffic controllers in Mexico have been working since 2019 in the Services to Navigation in the Mexican Air Space (Seneam).
In an audit carried out in 2021 of the applicant selection process, Seneam’s Internal Control Office (OIC) found, in a sample of 106 files, irregularities in 26 percent.
There were 28 applicants with irregularities, of which 14 currently remain in their positions.
In all cases, the evaluators had reported them as failing the requirements, but they appeared on the lists as passing.
An air traffic controller is responsible for supervising takeoffs and landings at the airport and must have response capabilities for risk and pressure situations.
On May 5, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) issued a security bulletin in which, among other things, it complained about the training of Mexican controllers after the reconfiguration of the airspace of the Valley of Mexico, which was ordered by President Andrés Manuel López Obredor (AMLO) to accommodate his controversial new hub, the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA).
Mexico lost its Category 1 U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety ranking a year ago, for a number of concerns, including a “lack of training of the personnel that monitors flight traffic.”
And since the redesign of the country’s airspace a year ago, there have been at least 17 close-call incidences of airplanes at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM), including a near collision of two Volaris jets on Saturday, May 7.
As a result, the federal government ordered a decrease in AICM’s operations by 25 percent, adding yet another layer of controversy to the ongoing issues with Mexico’s airspace.
The AMLO administration ordered that all cargo, charter and national flights be moved to his hard-to-maneuver, hard-to-reach AIFA or the Toluca Airport in the State of Mexico (Edoméx), about one hour outside the capital, by no later than November of this year.
But despite growing concerns about the AICM’s safety record and convoluted attempts by the government to rectify the situation, the capital’s airport continues to be plagued by serious safety issues.
In a report published in Mexico’s Reforma daily newspaper on Thursday, May 19, the paper noted that there were at least seven confirmed failed landings at the AICM the previous day over a 10-hour period.
At an international level, there are normally between one to three aborted landings per 1,000 operations. The AICM, has about 900 daily flights, so the incidence of failed landings at that airport is two to three times the norm.
The audit of the OIC of the Seneam, which was disclosed earlier this week, reported a series of requirements not met by the applicants, ranging from psychophysical tests to their command of the English language, which is essential to communicate with foreign pilots, understand manuals and instructions.
“In the published result lists for English assessment, six applicants were approved for work without having been accredited with this skill, as stated in the evaluators’ lists,” the OIC said.
There were also applicants who, inexplicitly, did not meet the established maximum age, in particular eight who exceeded the 30-year threshold by between one and eight years.
“The Seneam Training Center (Cecase) did not provide this supervisory body with the supporting documentation where it has the authorizations by the hierarchical superiors for the applicants to be registered, breaching the provisions of Sections I and IV of Article 7 of the General Law of Administrative Responsibilities,” it said.
Also, there were applicants who did not prove that they had submitted the psychophysical exam and others whose psychotechnical evaluations first reported them as unfit and later the evaluations appeared as fit.
“From the sample of 106 files, five applicants are registered without having the document that guarantees that they have been accredited with the corresponding psychophysical exam, which is an integral part of the requirements established to continue with the registration process,” the OIC said.