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IFATCA joins with global partners to call for new guidance on drone operations

Important issue raised at ICAO’s 40th Triennial Assembly in Montreal

Montreal, 10 October 2019 – Airports Council International (ACI) World and its global aviation industry partners have addressed the pressing need for standards and guidance to address unauthorised drone operations to the 40th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly.

ACI World, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) presented a paper – entitled The need for standards and guidance to mitigate the risks of, and to improve response to unauthorized UAS operations – which stated that disruption to airport operations by drones is a matter that requires urgent attention by ICAO, States and industry.

In addition to the safety risk which comes directly from unauthorized drone – or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – operations, several major airports have been shut down by drone sightings around the world and this major disruption has led to frustration for passengers and substantial economic costs.

The ICAO Assembly supported the working paper, recognizing the safety risks associated with the unauthorized presence of unmanned aircraft in close vicinity to commercial aircraft and airports and noted the offer from industry to assist in drafting suitable guidance material.

The Assembly was invited to request ICAO to establish a process to allow the industry to provide input to mitigate the risks of, and improve government and industry responses to, unauthorized drone operations, such as:

  • developing guidance material
  • developing a generic concept of operation that could be used by States to establish procedures, and,
  • defining taxonomy related to UAS incidents and accidents.

ICAO noted the offer of the industry to assist in drafting the above guidance material.



“The issue of unauthorized drone incursions is a clear and present risk to airport operations around the world,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “ACI is ready to join our industry partners to work with ICAO in drafting new international guidance material which builds upon existing standard, guidance, and regulations to protect operations and assist airports in responding to incidents. The industry needs harmonized processes for the detection of – and counter measures against – unauthorized drone operations that may interfere with international aviation.”

“The issue of unauthorized drone incursions is a clear and present risk to airport operations around the world,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “ACI is ready to join our industry partners to work with ICAO in drafting new international guidance material which builds upon existing standard, guidance, and regulations to protect operations and assist airports in responding to incidents. The industry needs harmonized processes for the detection of – and counter measures against – unauthorized drone operations that may interfere with international aviation.”

IFALPA President Captain Jack Netskar said, “It is critical that all States address the risk to aviation safety due to the unauthorized use of drones in controlled airspace. IFALPA has already produced some guidance material aimed at flight crew on what to do when a drone is reported or encountered with specific actions that can reduce the risk of a collision. We believe a collective effort by industry and regulators to mitigate these risks will lead to a harmonized set of standards and guidance for all stakeholders to implement.”

IFATCA President & CEO Duncan Auld said, “Air Traffic Controllers require clearer procedures for the handling of unauthorized UAS. Controllers are expected to make informed decisions based on established rules, without any ambiguity. A risk-based procedure will allow more practical management of these situations, where often the complete closure of an airport introduces significant complexity and associated risk into the ATM system.”

In addition, the Assembly reviewed a paper – entitled UAS Traffic Management – which was presented by ACI, IFALPA, IFATCA, and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA). The Assembly recognized the value of ICAO’s activities towards the development of a common framework for UAS traffic management and recommended that ICAO be urged to accelerate and expand its work on the development of a full regulatory framework for this.

The Assembly reviewed an additional paper – entitled The safe and efficient integration of UAS into airspace – presented by CANSO, IATA, IFALPA, which outlined the expected growth of the UAS sector, and requested ICAO to consider establishing a framework through which it can work with industry on developing provisions for new airspace entrants. The Assembly agreed that UAS should be a key focus of the assessment on new entrants that the Assembly will submit for the consideration of the Council.



Notes for editors

  1. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2019, ACI serves 646 members, operating 1,960 airports in 176 countries.
  2. IFALPA is the global voice of pilots. An international not-for-profit organization, IFALPA represents over 100,000 pilots in nearly 100 countries. The mission of the Federation is to promote the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and to be the global advocate of the piloting profession; providing representation, services, and support to both our members and the aviation industry.
  3. IFATCA is the recognized international organisation representing air traffic controller associations. The Federation has been representing air traffic controllers for more than 50 years and has more than 50,000 members in over 125 countries.
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Working conditions of controllers in Cyprus

ATCEUC and IFATCA criticize the working conditions of the ATCOs in Cyprus

ATCEUC and IFATCA express their support to the Air Traffic Controller, who was injured during the collapse of the ceiling on the 13th of June 2019 in the Area Control Centre of Nicosia. ATCEUC and IFATCA also express their sympathy with the employees of the Department of Civil Aviation Cyprus and the effects that this accident has on their working environment. This will increase pressure on the work force, reduce moral and will create further delay and safety concerns in the area.

Ceiling collapse in Nicosia ACC on 13 June 2019 – photo CYATCU

ATCEUC and IFATCA have criticized the working conditions in Cyprus for more than 10 years. The interventions did not result in actions from the national or European competent authorities. In the opinion of ATCEUC and IFATCA the current situation is the result of years of mismanagement and underinvestment.

The Cyprian Air Navigation Service Provider is understaffed, work with antiquated equipment, work from the third floor of an abandoned office building with very little space. Furthermore, the operational environment is
characterized by many different political interests, e.g. the lack of communication between Ankara and Nicosia, making it difficult to maintain a safe an orderly flow of traffic.

Unfortunately, in some cases it takes an accident to show decision makers that action is needed:

ATCEUC and IFATCA call upon the European Commission, Eurocontrol, Airlines, the Cypriot government and the DCA Cyprus to invest in improving the working conditions significantly for our Cypriot friends and colleagues.
We suggest that the European Commission suspends the performance scheme for Cyprus and engage in negotiations with the Cypriote authorities to develop a sufficiently funded National performance plan.

A PDF version of the press release can be downloaded here.

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IFATCA / ECA JOINT PRESS RELEASE

IFATCA & ECA are deeply concerned about the negative impact of judicial decisions on air transport safety in and over Switzerland

click for PDF (EN/DE)

The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations, IFATCA, and the European Cockpit Association, ECA, are extremely disappointed to learn of the conviction of two Air Traffic Controllers in Switzerland. In April and December 2018, two air traffic controllers were convicted by the Federal Penal Court and by the Cantonal Court of Zurich respectively for operational incidents. No one was injured in either event, nor was there any damage sustained to any of the involved aircraft or to ground infrastructure. This reaction does nothing to improve aviation safety.

Aviation is the safest mode of transport, and accidents are extremely rare. This is thanks to the continuous effort to learn from incidents where the stringent aviation standards may not have been met. A ‘Just Culture’ is one where aviation professionals, including pilots and air traffic controllers, are encouraged to report issues relevant to safety without undue fear of punishment. This makes the aviation system safer. Despite drastic increases in traffic, safety levels have continued to improve to the level the flying public enjoys today.

Switzerland remains one of the few States that has chosen to deviate from international standards and recommendations – including those in the Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – when it comes to using safety reports to trigger court cases. The Swiss judicial system is limited by the 1942 penal code which binds the courts to perform in a manner that is not benefical to aviation safety. An urgent review is needed in line with Resolutions 38-3 and 38-4 of the General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the aviation specialised body of the United Nations.

Aviation, and in particular air traffic control, is a complex industry where the front-end operator is working as an integral part of the system, interacting in teams with systems and procedures. These complex systems are extremely resilient and do not fail only because of one element of the system, it is the system that fails, not the individual.

Lengthy and costly court cases do not improve aviation safety, nor do they contribute to the robustness of complex systems. They create a climate of fear amongst aviation professionals and result in a reluctance to submit reports. The opportunity to learn from these events is therefore severely compromised. Just Culture is not a carte blanche for aviation professionals, including air traffic controllers. It is an essential cornerstone that allows aviation professionals to actively engage in the process of improving safety.

IFATCA & ECA urgently call upon Switzerland to align with other States and International standards, to incorporate the principles of Just Culture into their legal system in order to provide for a balanced approach between safety and the administration of justice.

Note to editors:

IFATCA is the recognised international organisation representing air traffic controller associations. The Federation has been representing air traffic controllers for more than 50 years and has more than 50,000 members in over 125 countries.

ECA is the representative body of European pilot associations, representing over 38.000 pilots from across Europe, striving for the highest levels of aviation safety and fostering social rights and quality pilots in Europe.Website: www.eurocockpit.be twitter @eu_cockpit

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IFATCA / IFALPA JOINT PRESS RELEASE

International Organisations warn against premature conclusions

The aviation community grieves for the tragic loss of lives aboard US-Bangla Flight 211 on 12 March 2018. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost, and the survivors who may still have a long road to recovery. We also wish to extend our support to our Nepalese and Bangladeshi colleagues for whom this is undoubtedly a traumatic experience.

In order to learn from such event and prevent any repetition, IFATCA and IFALPA, the International Organisations representing Air Traffic Controllers and Air Line Pilots, stress the need for the technical investigation into the circumstances of this accident to be conducted according to international Standards.

Such investigation should strictly follow the provisions laid out in Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which states that “the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents” and that “it is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability”.

Accident investigators should have unrestricted access and control over the evidence to ensure that a detailed examination can take place. Whilst the investigation is ongoing, there should be no disclosure of the accident evidence such as recordings, in order to avoid misinterpretation of the events that occurred.

Premature conclusions, often based on incomplete, inaccurate or speculative information, and focusing on any one aspect of what happened, will only hamper the ability to learn from these tragic events. We urge the media, the public, and the concerned stakeholders to respect the long established procedures for analysing these events and let the accident investigation run its course.

IFATCA and IFALPA will closely monitor the investigation to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with the principles described above, and that all efforts are made to prevent the recurrence of such an event.

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