Following a spate of near-collisions, radar blackouts and delays, a top official came out with a rather withering review of the people keeping an eye on Vietnam's airplanes
During a press conference on Friday, Director Lai Xuan Thanh of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said roughly 40 percent of [Vietnam’s] air traffic controllers have received an average or weak performance review.
"Specifically, eight percent were rated 'weak' in various categories,” he said.
Worse still, “around 30 percent of air traffic controllers failed to reach Level 4 of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) English proficiency requirements,” Thanh said, citing an internal appraisal conducted by the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation which employs roughly 500 air traffic controllers.
According to ICAO requirements, pilots, air traffic controllers, and all others who use English to communicate on international routes are required to speak Level 4 ICAO English (Operational) or above.
The recent press conference was held in the wake of a system failure that led to a loss of power in Tan Son Nhat's air traffic control tower on Thursday.
The incident delayed and rerouted dozens of flights.
Following the blackout, a technician and a senior air traffic controller were suspended pending an investigation into the cause.
Late last month, the bilingual air traffic supervisor at Tan Son Nhat failed to relay critical information provided by a Vietnamese-speaking military air traffic controller to a Vietnam Airlines pilot, leading to a near collision between a civilian jetliner and an Air Force helicopter.
Several other startling errors in air traffic control management occurred at Da Nang and Vinh airports earlier this year.
Addressing a meeting of aviation officials earlier this month, Transportation Minister Dinh La Thang blamed the problem on nepotism.
“Vietnamese aviation firms suffer from low-quality human resources because airport and air traffic management companies find it hard to educate their staff, who are the children or relatives of the firms’ leaders,” he said.
Thanh of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam pledged to give problem employees further technical training and English language education so [they] can "deal with situations more smoothly.
"Those who cannot meet English requirements won’t be allowed to directly control air traffic," he said.