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IFATCA welcomes a new Corporate Member


IFATCA welcomes its newest Corporate Member: Takeoff Aviation Academy. Based in the UK, the are an international aviation training organisation. Most of courses are provided under license from the Eurocontrol Training Zone. Where they develop they own courses, these comply with the ICAO syllabus and or mapped to the Eurocontrol Specification for the ATCO Common Core Content Initial Training. More information can be found on their website https://toaa.aero

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IFATCA cautions on post-COVID-19 air traffic recovery

The duration of the COVID-19 crisis is having a serious impact on the amount of air traffic since March All kinds of precautionary measures are being taken to protect operational Air Traffic Management (ATM) staff against spreading of the virus.

All these different measures, in combination with the relatively low traffic demand, may have affected the competency levels in air traffic service units around the world.

Though many national safety authorities acted within their jurisdiction to keep licensed staff at the highest possible level of competence, the combination of the low traffic levels and the duration of the crisis carries a clear safety risk.

Whenever and wherever traffic recovers to pre-COVID-19 levels, operational staff may reach a point, either in peak or in continuous traffic flows, where their ability to handle the traffic has not yet regained the required level.

As experience shows, such a temporary gap can only partly be trained for in simulations. If at the same time, social distancing and protection measures still have to be applied, the situation is likely to be even more complex.

Bearing in mind ICAO provisions and IFATCA policies on competency-based training and assessment and refresher training, full competence has to be rebuilt and maintained by both operational staff and assessors.

The current solution adopted by some regulators would suggest that competence can be maintained by merely working during a certain number of hours, regardless of the amount of traffic (even zero). While this may be compliant with the letter of the rules, it clearly does not meet the intent, as it does not fulfil the purpose for which competencies safeguards and thresholds were created.

Moreover, in their aim to keep their licensed staff at maximum (theoretical) competence levels, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) may be tempted to schedule more staff than the current level of traffic actually requires, which is doubly counterproductive: not only it does not help to consolidate competence, it also unnecessarily puts operational staff at risk during a pandemic as staff is exposed more than needed in close contacts in these units.

An additional concern is that many ANSPs have taken the opportunity to optimize traffic flows, enabled by the low demand and lower traffic complexity. As these optimisations have not been tested in high traffic situations, it is vital that when traffic levels recover, these changes are carefully monitored and, where necessary, reverted.

Lastly, IFATCA submits that the global pandemic has also likely had psychological and/or physical impact on some of the staff, which may, in turn, have compromised their ability to cope with pre-pandemic traffic levels. This aspect should not be ignored and needs to be carefully considered.

IFATCA recommends that ANSPs, in collaboration with their regulators and capacity managers, ensure that a relevant level of competence can be maintained. To mitigate some of the risks mentioned above, traffic levels need to be carefully managed and, where necessary, restricted to allow staff
sufficient time to get reacquainted with increasing demand and complexity. Furthermore, IFATCA encourages ANSPs to engage with their staff and ensure mental and physical health support programmes are made available to help them meet the challenges that will undoubtedly present themselves during the recovery from this unprecedented crisis.

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IFATCA Position on Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems

Note: this position must be considered as provisional policy until has been approved by IFATCA's Member Associations

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), their market and their operations, are the future for airborne mobility and logistics and will have a significant impact on aviation. To facilitate safe access to airspace for the increasing numbers of unmanned aircraft (UA), a dedicated UAS traffic management (UTM) system has been proposed and is currently being developed.

The purpose of a UTM is to safely manage UAS operations both in controlled and uncontrolled airspace using a high degree of automation. Information will automatically be collected from and distributed to all affected stakeholders leaving the UAS operator to be responsible for managing its operations safely without direct interaction with Air Traffic Management (ATM).

In the short to medium term, the development of UTM will focus on Very Low-Level Airspace (typically 500ft and below) to accommodate Urban Air Mobility (UAM), parcel delivery, industrial applications, etc. Even though UTM is still a general concept with no altitude restrictions, this initial development is focused on low-level airspace with the potential to leverage off knowledge gained to apply to Very High-Level Operations like stratospheric balloons or hypersonic vehicles into the future (ETM: Upper-E Traffic Management).

Due to different technologies and capabilities, specific operational requirements and limitations, and different regulatory requirements, UTM is considered a separate, but potentially complementary, system to the ANSP-supplied ATM. In fact, all the fundamental characteristics of an ATM system (Air Traffic Services, Air Space Management, Air Traffic Flow Management TFM) can also be found, with the necessary peculiarities, in UTM.

It is anticipated that in the future the two systems will converge into one traffic management system providing a seamless service to all airspace users with manned airspace users maintaining existing operational capacity and safety standards.

In order to promote safe, efficient and consistent regulation, and to assist and advise in the development of safe and orderly systems of Air Traffic Control, IFATCA would like to provide the following observations with a view to contributing to ongoing development of UTM.

CONCLUSION

It is important that a UTM is coordinated and developed with the ultimate goal on integration to the current ATM system. This requires discussion, standardisation and a UTM safety risk assessment model.

The fundamental aspect remains the adoption of an adequate regulatory framework that allows safe interactions between ATM and UTM. The required level of automation shall be carefully evaluated for a clear and unambiguous allocation of responsibilities.

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IFATCA Position on Europe's Single European Sky

Considering the publication of the revised legislative SES package, known as SES 2+, on 22nd of September 2020, the upcoming Committee of Transport and Tourism first reading at the European Parliament, and in anticipation of the Council of Transport Ministers on Tuesday 8th of December 2020, IFATCA submits the following:

The impact of the COVID -19 sanitary crisis on society at large, and aviation in particular, is of an unprecedented dimension. Traffic recovery will depend on the medical progress and it might be a dire and long way to achieve pre-COVID traffic numbers. It is therefore astonishing to note that the proposed legislative package is simply rehashing old recipes, which have in the past completely failed to provide the needed impetus to evolve towards a Single European Sky.

In the view of the professional air traffic controllers / sector, the proposal of the European Commission will create additional burden on the current system and if traffic figures rise again, it will push the sector further down the road of fragmentation and a slowed down reform process. In a situation like the current one, with an operational coherence and efficiency as prime goal, a legislative package using the strength of the current system and provide legislative support to emerge from this latest crisis in a better shape would have provided the needed support to create a competitive and modern European Air Traffic Management infrastructure. Europe deserves better to ensure the stability and resilience of its air transport industry.

IFATCA has published the “Single European Sky III - Mission possible” document (2019, pre-COVID crisis), where the Federation provides recommendations to achieve a long term, more efficient, user and passenger friendly Single European Sky.

As the 2020 crisis forces upon the industry a unique pause to establish a solid foundation for aviation, the initial “Single European Sky III - Mission possible” document shall be complimented with a new financing mechanism and an institutional re-organisation.

Europe can only maintain its position as a global actor if it can rely on a robust aviation infrastructure. IFATCA’s vision is designed to meet the following critical objectives:

IFATCA proposes the following eight recommendations to address the root causes of the SES delay:

IFATCA remains committed to and has been supportive of the Single European Sky since its inception. We strongly believe that the SES is possible. However, the onus is on all the stakeholders to collaborate, leave vested interests aside and find a way forward with a view of what will be gained for all, which avoids the mistakes of the past and addresses the current problems of the ATM system. Only then will the SES become a reality.

IFATCA and its professional representatives are always standing by to assist in developing such necessary changes and to be a driving force to defend the implementation of sound solutions: a performant European ATM system for the benefit of all stakeholders, including all ATM professionals.

IFATCA remains available to make the Single European Sky a coherent, logical and competitive mission possible.

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Joint Statement by IFALPA and IFATCA on TCAS

TCAS Needs Your Help!

Following the recent EUROCONTROL report on TCAS RA compliance: https://www.skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/5842.pdf, IFALPA and IFATCA feel the need to send a reminder to the pilot and controller community.

The Eurocontrol study analysed radar data of TCAS RA events taken over a 12-month period over the core area of Europe and reports that only 38% of the RAs were followed correctly, and that 34% even manoeuvred in the opposite direction. The results are in line with previous studies and the trend remains alarming.

While RAs are rare events, when they happen the situation may be critical, and correct action must be taken promptly. Recurrent training should improve flight crew and controllers understanding of how TCAS works, how they should respond to RAs, and the limitations of TCAS. However, monitoring programmes have identified several situations where pilot responses were incorrect.

Aircraft operators and training providers should consider making these the focus of recurrent training sessions. For controllers, the biggest concern is that they could interfere with TCAS by issuing instructions opposite to an RA, which the pilots might then decide to follow instead of the RA. That said, it should be clear that TCAS is a last-resort collision avoidance system, NOT a separation assurance system.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PILOTS

  • Always follow the RAIf you decide not to follow an RA for whatever reason, never ever manoeuvre in the opposite direction. Consider switching to “TA only”if the situation or technical limitations require it (e.g. local approach procedures or engine failure).
  • Do not assume the aircraft you see outside is the one on the TCAS display and vice versa.
  • If your aircraft is equipped with Auto-TCAS, keep the autopilot connected but closely monitor the manoeuvre.
  • If you receive an instruction during an active RA, let the controller know: “Unable, TCAS RA”
  • Report following an RA to ATC as soon as possible. This is essential for ATC to stop issuing instructions.
  • Report the “Clear of conflict” and your intentionsas soon as possible.
  • To prevent unnecessary RAs, plan to reduce your rate of climb/descent to max 1500ft/min during the last 1000ft before a level off (unless instructed by ATC to do otherwise).

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONTROLLERS

  • Once a pilot has announced an RA, do not issue any more instructions, just acknowledge(i.e. “Roger”)
  • If required to pass traffic information (by pilot or by local procedures), preferably use phraseology using relative altitudes (e.g. 1000 ft above or below) instead of mentioning the altitudes or Flight levels of the intruder(s).
  • To prevent unnecessary RAs, it is not recommended to assign vertical rates to be maintained until the cleared level or altitude, unless this is absolutely necessary. Pilots are not allowed to reduce a vertical rate assigned by ATC prior level off. This can result in high vertical closure rates with aircraft 1000ft above/below the cleared level and subsequent TCAS activation
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Volcanic Ash Refresher

As this is the year 2020, you might as well be as prepared for any more eventualities that may come your way. Ten years ago, in 2010, air travel over large parts of Europe was halted because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. While the impact of this was massive, every year, there are several volcanic eruptions which cause disruptions of some sort to air traffic. Hence, IFATCA has compiled some useful information to remind controllers of what impact it may have in their day-to-day work.

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New: IFATCA ON AIR

During the COVID crisis, many organisations reverted to using a different form of conferencing. IFATCA representatives were invited to participate in some of these webinars and vodcasts. The topics addressed concern not only the handling of the crisis, but talk as well about different technical and professional topics.

We've started collecting these talks, presentations and discussions on a special page: IFATCA on Air

The page can also be found under the Newsroom menu item.

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IFATCA calls on Russia to respect Just Culture

IFATCA, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations, is extremely shocked to learn of the final verdict passed by the Russian court where three Air Traffic Controllers were sentenced to 5, 5 ½ and 6 years imprisonment (penal colony). Such prosecution and sentencing do nothing to improve aviation safety, well to the contrary, and the consequences of such brutal and unjust treatment cannot yet be assessed.

Russia remains amongst a few States that have chosen to deviate from international standards and recommendations – including those specified in Annexes 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigations) and 19 (Safety Management Systems) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – when it comes to using safety reports to trigger court cases. To safeguard the whole aviation system in Russia, the judiciary needs an urgent adjustment 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.

Update: Read the statement from IFALPA

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New Issue of The Controller

Thanks to the hard work of our Editor Thom Metzger (USA NATCA) and his editorial team, we're proud to present the latest electronic issue of The Controller. As usual, our magazine is available on a variety of platforms:

  • The IFATCA website: https://the-controller.ifatca.org, where issues can be read from within your browser. While this can be read on mobile devices, it does require you to be online (and your provider may charge you for this).
    For the best experience, we recommend to select the full screen option via the toolbar on top of the pages.
  • Mobile Devices (tablets): We use issuu.com for the best experience on mobile devices. The issuu.com app, which allows you to read The Controller offline on your tablet can be downloaded via https://ios.the-controller.net, https://android.the-controller.net and https://windows.the-controller.net. Best of all, the issues are now available for free - look for IFATCA once you've started the app.
  • PDF Version: download the pdf version of the latest issue. This file is about 4Mb in size and requires a PDF viewer to be able to read it. A higher quality version is available via this link (25Mb).
  • For Member Associations: a print-ready PDF version (about 25Mb) can be downloaded that can eventually be printed for your members. Alternatively, issuu.com also offers a printing service. Please visit https://issuu.com/ifatca for more details. Associations that have problems to download these files can contact our Montréal office via [email protected].

Besides being free, an electronic issue also offers new possibilities to interact with the content. Links in articles and adverts can be clicked and open to the relevant pages.

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Revised SES2+ Package Press Release

Following the publication of the revised legislative SES package, known as SES 2+, on 23rd of September 2020 and the upcoming Council of Transport Ministers on Monday 28th of September 2020, IFATCA submits the following.

The impact of the COVID -19 sanitary crisis on society at large and aviation in particular is of unknown dimension. Traffic recovery will depend on the medical progress and it might be a dire and long way to achieve pre-COVID traffic numbers. The proposed legislative package is astonishingly rehashing old principles which have in the past not provided the needed impetus for a reform of the Single European Sky.  

In the view of the professional air traffic controllers / sector, the proposal of the European Commission will create additional burden on the current system and if traffic figures raise again will push the sector further down the road of fragmentation and a slowed down reform process. In a situation like the current one a legislative package using the strength of the current system and provide legislative support to raise out of the crisis in a better shape would have provided the needed support to create a competitive and modern European Air Traffic Management infrastructure. Europe deserves better to ensure the stability and resilience of its air transport industry.

The proposed reform package relies on the same mechanisms and instruments which failed to bring any reform in the past:

  • Functional Airspace Blocks; instead of working towards a seamless sky as recommended by the Wise Persons Group the proposed way forward will increase fragmentation.  
  • The cost recovery and charging mechanisms has shown its fragility it the current crisis.  IFATCA is proposing that part or all of the activities involved in the provision of ANS are funded independently of the current “airspace users pay all” principle. The possibility of creating an infrastructure fund at multinational level to finance ANS provision should be considered. Such a hybrid approach would prevent a situation where States have to step in to financially support commercialized or privatized ANSPs which run out of funds when traffic significantly decreases (experienced in 2001 and during the current pandemic).
  • To propose the future independent economical regulator under the helm of the European Aviation Safety Agency is an error. It undermines the credibility of EASA as an agency for safety as it requires at institutional level the guardian of safety to make compromises with safety.
  • Instead of providing a sustainable future funding scheme, which create a sound Air Traffic Management infrastructure the proposed Union wide unit rate without a proper backup by member states will rely on the continuous uninterrupted growth of air traffic.  
  • The current crisis has highlighted that Air Traffic Management is an essential service which needs to function properly in any given situation. To this end, a robust and standardized infrastructure needs first to be set up. Liberalisation and market mechanisms as proposed in the EC proposal is the wrong strategy to achieve this.

Following the reports of the European Court of Auditor and the Recommendations of the Wise Person Group, IFATCA hoped that the European Commission would use the current crisis to come up with a real adequate proposal for a needed reform process in the sector. Is it is disappointing to see that this is not the case. Europe can only become one of the global actors if it can rely on a robust infrastructure in aviation. This needs to be built, including new technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning and possibly remote operations on a sound and commonly agreed and shared vision.  

IFATCA and its professional representatives are always standing by to assist in developing such necessary changes and to be a driving force to defend the implementation of sound solutions: a performant European ATM system for the benefit of all stakeholders, including all ATM professionals.

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