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By Winston Tarere

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (November 5, 2001 - Port Vila Presse/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji and Vanuatu have combined forces in a project to localize air traffic control, enabling Ni Vanuatu to direct planes in the skies and airports of their country.

Aviation Vanuatu Limited has officially opened its Vanuatu Aviation Academy, with eight students training to be Vanuatu's first local Air Traffic Control Officers.

Aviation Vanuatu and Strategic Air Services Limited, from Fiji's Nadi International Airport, have entered into a commercial cooperation agreement to operate the training facility.

Fiji has one of the most developed air traffic control systems in the region, with local air traffic controllers taking over many years ago.

Aviation Vanuatu Limited chief executive Desmond Ross said: "AVL has placed high priority on the training of local Ni Vanuatu personnel to become Air Traffic Control Officers. This is necessary to localize these positions and, in doing so, to provide career opportunities for young Ni Vanuatu people."

Expatriates have monitored the country’s airspace since independence in 1980.

The training program has received blessings from both the government and donors, including the Australian government.

Aviation Minister Jacklyn Reuben said the government is looking forward to saving costs by having expatriate Air Traffic Controllers localized.

Jo Tagicakibau, a Fiji instructor from Strategic Air Services, said other countries around the Pacific have expressed interest in sending their students to study at the new academy in Port Vila.

The students are currently in phase two of their four-phase air traffic control training program.

Tagicakibau said: "They all passed the basic induction course covering the basic theory required by an Air Traffic Controller to function in his or her work.

"After completing phase one, they went to Nadi, Fiji, to do their practical -- an initial two-month attachment with the Nadi Air Traffic Control Center.

"They were awarded formal qualification as Air Traffic Control Assistants after their attachment in Fiji."

He said the second phase of the program provides basic training on airport control practices and procedures.

Phase three -- an approach control course -- is scheduled to start January 7th. This will involve complex approach control functions at a non-radar equipped airport.

Phase four will be pursued in both Vanuatu and back at Nadi International Airport, one of the region's busiest air traffic control centers.

Upon successful completion of the four phases each trainee will qualify as Air Traffic Control Officers capable of working in the Bauerfield Control Tower at Port Vila.

For additional reports from the Port Vila Presse, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Port Vila (Vanuatu) Presse.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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