10 July 2002

Swiss tighten air traffic control rules

By Fiona Fleck in Geneva

Swiss aviation authorities yesterday ordered Skyguide, the Swiss air traffic control company involved in last week's collision over Germany, to ensure that a minimum of two controllers are on duty at all times.

At the time of the crash between a Russian charter jet and a cargo plane, shortly before midnight, one of the two flight traffic controllers on duty was taking a coffee break while the other tried to solve technical problems.

Until now, single-manned operations have been normal practice at night when only two controllers are on duty and one takes a break. During the day they have been allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

A spokesman for the Federal Office for Civil Aviation in Berne said: "This precautionary measure is a result of preliminary findings from German investigations."

Seventy-one people were killed in the July 1 collision, mainly Russian children going on holiday to Spain.

A Skyguide spokesman said two flight controllers would always be on duty at night with a third to step in when either took a break. A fourth would be on stand-by duty.

The Danish controller who failed to avert the crash, a father of three, had been working for Skyguide for five years. He has been receiving psychological counselling since the crash and it is not clear when, or if, he will resume his duties.