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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 21:08 GMT 22:08 UK
Swiss cut air traffic by 20%
Air traffic controller at Kloten airport, Zurich
Swiss controllers have been under extreme pressure

The Swiss Air traffic control body, Skyguide, has announced it is to reduce the number of planes in Swiss air space by 20%.



This comes in the wake of last Monday's mid-air collision between a cargo jet and a Russian passenger plane in which 71 people died.

Skyguide says the change, to take effect immediately, will relieve its air traffic controllers who have been working under extreme stress since the crash.

The reduction in traffic will cause delays on one of the busiest weekends of the summer.

Poor communications

As more details of the final moments before the collision emerge, it has become clear that the lone Swiss air traffic controller on duty was struggling to do his job.

Collision warning equipment was shut down for maintenance, the telephone system was also being repaired and the controller was trying to bring another plane in for landing at the time.

Launch new window : Mid-air collision
How the crash happened
Skyguide's director, Alan Rossier, admitted on Saturday that the company had been guilty of communications failures.

But, he said, questions about the warning systems in the two planes would also have to be answered before the true cause of the crash could be established.

"Only then can one say whether it is just a breakdown by us or a breakdown by others as well," said Mr Rossier.

New routings

But the decision to reduce capacity is a clear sign that Skyguide has concerns about safety.

TU-154 crash site
Investigations into the causes of the crash are continuing
This weekend is one of the busiest of the year for Zurich airport, and 65,000 passengers and 750 flights are expected.

Delays are now certain and the reduction applies not only to take-offs and landings, but to planes simply flying through Swiss air space.

This means that Europe's central air traffic control authority in Brussels will have to find alternative routes for many aircraft which would originally have flown over Switzerland.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Swiss controllers accept they have a heavy workload and that their job is complex"

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03 Jul 02 | Europe
04 Jul 02 | Europe
03 Jul 02 | Europe
26 May 02 | In Depth
04 Jul 02 | Media reports
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