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Air traffic controllers in trouble over pilot song

George Mills · 16 Sep 2013, 11:26

Published: 16 Sep 2013 11:26 GMT+02:00

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On August 17th Iberia pilot Francisco Ubet called time on a 34-year career and to honour the occasion, air traffic controllers at Madrid's Barajas airport transmitted a farewell message.

Accompanied by guitar, and singing to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, the controllers made in number of aviation in jokes in their 35-second song for the outgoing pilot. 

To cap the celebrations off, when the plane landed, firemen at Madrid's airport performed a 'water arch' in the pilot's honour. 

"Thanks so much. You are all great," said the emotional pilot.

"Thank you, great service as always and thanks for all these years," he added.

But Spain's Spanish Airports and Air Navigation Association (AENA) were far from impressed by the celebrations.

In a note, the air traffic controllers' human resources department said the controllers had broken the rules by broadcasting the message using the air traffic control radio frequency.  

Five controllers are currently facing disciplinary action.

But Spain's Union of Air traffic Controllers (USCA) told The Local  that the controller's decision to broadcast the song was "completely normal and part of the human dimension of our profession" .

"It's like the way that the Pope always broadcasts a message when he flies through Spanish aerospace," an USCA spokesperson said.

The spokesperson went on to stress that security was never comprised and measures were taken to guarantee the safety of other aircraft.

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USCA also blasted AENA managment for their "absolute ignorance about what takes place in the aeronautical environment".

The Union have now started a campaign to see the punishment of the five controllers dropped.

As part of this campaign, Spain's Union of Air Traffic Controllers is asking pilots to send a brief radio message of support on their approach to Madrid airport.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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