It is an orchestra. An orchestra in which hundreds of people participate so that everything is perfect. This is a brief summary of what commercial aviation means in the 21st century, but the reality is much more complex. Today we want to get closer to a profession that makes everything go extraordinarily well when we fly and that, to a certain extent, makes the flight have been inserted in our lives as something normal, everyday, of walking around the house. The truth is that the ordination of the heavens requires a preparation of high returns that implies a great physical and emotional burden due to the responsibility attached to the position. Aimar Bretos interviews Daniel Zamit, air traffic controller in Madrid and spokesperson for the Union of Air Traffic Controllers (USCA).
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How air traffic is distributed
“From the moment an airplane turns on its engines until it turns them off, there is always contact with a controller. The tower work is what people imagine we carry out, however, there are fewer people here than in the centers where dozens of flights. Tower work is more visual, “explains Zamit. “There is a central computer in Brussels that calculates the traffic overload in the European space. This supercomputer calculates all the flight plans to know in which sectors there will be overload. When it calculates that there will be overload in that sector, regulations are established, which are those small delays that are so annoying. In Europe a system is chosen that consists of spacing the departures of the planes and it is done for safety. Most of the delays are resolved on the ground, not in the air, as it happens for example in the US, “he says.
How long can an airplane circle in the air before landing? “They must have enough fuel to spend about 20 minutes circling and also have to go to an alternative airport and have a few tons also landed. That is subject to inspections,” responds Zamit. “The dangerous thing is nervousness. The situation of having airplanes circling in an airport is dangerous, but the seniority of the crew, some companies, etc., greatly influences, but there are times when a storm settles in an airport and there is no way The dangerous thing is also the breakdowns: there is a message that if the pilot tells you, your bones freeze and it is “smoke in the cockpit.” It is one of the worst things you can hear, “says the air traffic controller.
“There are times when you have to improvise. When you have a storm and the easiest thing is to send the plane to the alternative, it is much more work for the crew and for us to hold the plane and if a pilot from Iberia or Air Europa gives you information , who are very familiar with Barajas, finds the way to land and that helps the rest to follow. It’s like a trick. When the crew knows the airport, everything is much easier, “he says about delicate situations in the air. .
How much distance must be left between one plane and another when they pass through the same point? “We usually leave about 1,000 feet, which is about 300 meters. The precision of our aircraft and the plane is increasing, so we can separate them with less distance. Because it is very reliable. Longitudinal separation does depend on instruments on the ground and is leave about 5 kilometers, “he explains.
What happens if a plane is hijacked mid-flight in 2021? “There are a series of codes, we have to notify our superiors and they contact the Spanish air defense. The first thing they do is send fighters to take a look. Depending on the evolution of the situation … In other words, if it comes directly to Puerta del Sol, the fighters will shoot it down. We had a situation of half Cuban illegal interference, the fighters were sent to it and the plane ended up in Torrejón. The protocol is to leave the plane on a different frequency than rest, everything that is around him is cleared because you do not know how he is going to act and see the rules of the protocol. Ultimately, it will be the military who will make the decision, “he sentenced.