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5,000 Saudis apply for 90 ATC jobs
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 10 - 2013


Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Saudi citizens have shown great interest in taking over from expatriates the job of air traffic controllers (ATCs) at Kingdom's airports.
Many Saudis have completed necessary training in the profession. Recently more than 5,000 Saudis applied for about 90 vacancies announced by the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA).
According to officials, the job of ATCs has been fully Saudized.
“There are no expatriate ATCs currently at the Kingdom's airports, even during the most difficult times of the year, such as the Haj season,” said one official on condition of anonymity.
The head of the ATC operations at Jeddah regional center, Atef Al-Harthy, praised the work of Saudi air traffic controllers.
“They are performing a vital role in maintaining the safety and flow of air traffic. There are around 515 ATCs in the Kingdom, and this number is likely to increase,” he said.
The head of ATC units, Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi, said there are around 30 ATCs on a fully-paid scholarship in New Zealand, 30 in Sweden, 30 on their way to Canada and 12 at a local academy.
Fifty-two new ATCs will be ready for work in 2014, followed by 84 in 2015.
The general manager of air traffic, Ibrahim Al-Jabri, said ATCs are first subjected to different medical tests to ensure that only the best are chosen for the job.
“ATCs should be patient, observant, confident, team players, decision makers and must have excellent communication skills and the ability to work under pressure,” he said.
Ibrahim Balto, an ATC at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, said the official language of communication is English, and there are specific terms for use approved by the International Aviation Traffic Association (IATA).
Communication between pilots and ATCs are conducted through high frequency radio waves.
Prospective ATC trainees enroll in a two-year program after first acquiring necessary English skills. Later, they are provided on-the-job-training at control towers.
All applicants for ATC jobs must be fluent in English, otherwise, they are referred to administrative duties, Al-Harthy said.
Salem Ba Ebaid said during the 30 years he worked as an ATC, he has witnessed drastic changes in navigation equipment, which have simplified the tasks of ATCs.
“These equipment give precise data on aircraft locations, altitude and air speed, helping the ATCs make sound decisions,” said Ba Ebaid.
He pointed out that this job benefited him in many ways. “The job taught me how to make good planning and take the right decision at the right time,” he said, adding that all ATCs feel proud of their job.
Khalid Al-Shehri said once he received information from a pilot that a passenger was suffering from a medical condition and was unconscious.
Al-Shehri passed this information to approaching flights in order to give landing priority to the pilot. He said he felt extremely happy in helping save a life.


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