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Overworked air controllers could be potential cause for airport near crash

(CRI Online)    08:32, October 24, 2016

A near crash between two China Eastern's planes at Shanghai Hongqiao airport hit the headlines in Chinese media recently. An investigation has showed that two air traffic controllers were the cause of the near crash after giving misplaced orders to the pilots, both forgetful of the other planes' movements.

China's civil aviation authority announced that the revocation of the licenses of both traffic controllers along with another 13 air traffic control officials also being corrected for the incident.

This is not the end however, a Beijing Youth Newspaper report showed that overworked and underpaid workers could be the potential cause behind the near crash. The controllers shoulder the same weighty responsibility as pilots but only earn a fifth of the amount.

The report cited an aviation expert saying that the accident cannot be simply blamed on the controllers. It exposes a hidden danger existing beneath the fast growth of China's civil aviation. The majority of China's air traffic controllers are faced with working long hours with little pay. The remuneration mechanism needs to be reformed immediately in a bid to select and keep the required talent for the position, otherwise the air traffic control system will be confronted with a more difficult situation.

The report also found that China's air traffic controllers face increasing pressures in their work but their salaries have not been raised for the last three years. Meanwhile, the airlines in China have grown rapidly and expanded with income.

China now has nearly 7,000 air traffic controllers, a vast majority of them earn 150 thousand yuan annually, while 20% only earn 100 thousand yuan and 3-5% earns 200 thousand yuan. In comparison, the salary in the US reaches an average annual wage of around 800-900 thousand yuan.

The initial incident occurred when China's eastern airlines jet Airbus 320 took off earlier this month across the same runway after an Airbus 330 from Beijing had just landed.

The A320 pilot opted to continue taking off as the speed of his aircraft had reached more than 240km/h, and he safely flew the plane over the A330.

The two aircrafts crossed only 19m away from each other found the investigation from the administration.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Yuan Can, Bianji)

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