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The 40th ICAO Assembly

IFATCA’s participation at the big rendezvous to shape the future of aviation

The 40th ICAO Assembly took place last 24 September to 4 October 2019. It was attended by more than 2 400 delegates from around the world, representing 184 of the 193 Member States of ICAO and 55 international organizations, such as ACI, CANSO, IAOPA, IATA, IBAC, ICCAIA, IFALPA, IFATCA, and many more. Interesting to note is the fact that this year, the Assembly coincided with the 75th anniversary of ICAO.

The Assembly is ICAO’s sovereign body; it meets at least once every three years and is convened by the ICAO Council. It is divided into five different commissions: administrative, economic, executive, legal and technical and its primary objective is to determine the direction, budget and work programme of the organization for the next triennium. It is also during the Assembly that Member States are elected to the Council.

IFATCA was represented at the Assembly by a delegation consisting of Mr. Duncan Auld (President and CEO), Mrs. Helena Sjöström (Deputy President), Mr. Ignacio Baca (EVP Technical), Mr. Peter Van Rooyen (EVP Professional), Mr. Jeffrey D. Richards (RPAS Panel Member for IFATCA), Mr. Thom Metzger (The Controller Magazine Editor) and Mr. Jean-François Lepage (IFATCA Liaison Officer to the ICAO Air Navigation Commission).

During its 40th iteration, the Assembly produced and reviewed more than 640 working papers and information papers. IFATCA co-signed five working papers with other industry organizations (ACI, CANSO, IATA, ICCAIA and IFALPA) on topics of mutual interest, such as commercial space operations integration, the need to address harmful interferences to GNSS signals, the need for standards and guidance to mitigate the risks related to unauthorized UAS operations, the future of frequency spectrum needs in aviation and UAS traffic management.

Among the 640 working papers, the main topics covered were: environment-related issues and the CORSIA initiative (62 papers), security and cybersecurity (55 papers), facilitation (40 papers), ATM-related matters (36 papers), economic issues (31 papers), the “No Country Left Behind” (NCLB) initiative (28 papers), safety management (25 papers), flight operations (24 papers), Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (23 papers) and the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme – Continuous Monitoring Approach (USOAP CMA) (23 papers).

Immediately before the Assembly, the Executive Board gathered for a three-day meeting, also in Montréal. The presence of the entire executive in the city that is home to ICAO was not a coincidence; it was an excellent opportunity for some of the EB members to meet with other international organizations such as IFALPA and ITF, while for others it was the perfect moment to work on logistic and financial issues at the IFATCA office, along with Tatiana, our Office Manager. Meanwhile, our Liaison Officer to the ICAO ANC, Jean-François, was putting the final touch to the interventions drafted by the group for the Assembly and took care of the necessary coordination and arrangements with some of the key industry partners and States present at the event.

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IFATCA Americas Regional Meeting in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina – Day 3

The third day of the 36th IFATCA Regional Meeting of the Americas region started with two presentations from Mr. Jean-François Lepage, Liaison Officer to the ICAO Air Navigation Commission. He first gave a detailed overview of the ICAO main bodies and hierarchy, where IFATCA is present in the organization, how Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) are developed, and finally where IFATCA can assist and shape the work of ICAO and ensure the Federation’s concerns, challenges and needs are heard.

The second presentation provided the participants with an overview of the many items on the work programme of the Professional and Legal Committee (PLC) and Technical and Operational Committee (TOC).

Following these presentations, Member Associations represented at the meeting (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Canada, United States of America, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica) presented their report to the audience. Jamaica updated the participants with their preparations for the IFATCA Annual Conference, to be held on the island in May 2021.

The last presentation of the day was a brief overview of IFATCA’s Competency-Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) Workshop, presented by Mr. Jean-François Lepage (IFATCA – ICAO).

Mr. John Carr, Executive Vice-President Americas, concluded the meeting with a few closing remarks, thanking ATEPSA for their dedication organizing the event, and wished all air traffic controllers an excellent International Air Traffic Controllers Day, on this 20th October 2019.

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IFATCA Americas Regional Meeting in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina – Day 2

The second day of the 36th IFATCA Regional Meeting of the Americas region started opening remarks by Mr. Jonathan Doino, General Secretary for ATEPSA. He highlighted the importance for his association to be part of ITF and also the importance for air traffic controllers to be well represented at ICAO. He also emphasized the need for effective cooperation between all stakeholders, namely IFATCA and ITF, because we are stronger together.

From left to right: Mr. Edgardo Llano, Secretary General – Asociación del Personal Aeronáutico Argentina, Mr. Jonathan Doino, Secretary General – ATEPSA, Mrs. Dina Feller, Civil Aviation Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean (ITF).

Following this address, ATEPSA invited all Member Associations present at the meeting for a flag exchange ceremony. ATEPSA thanked all the attendees and welcomed all participants to Argentina. While there are several challenges to tackle in the region, ATEPSA is confident that with the help of IFATCA, a lot of work can be done and solutions can be found.

From left to right: Martin (Córdoba, Argentina), Danila (Mendoza, Argentina), Wilton (Asunción, Paraguay) and Rossana (Montevideo, Uruguay).

A panel of four controllers from the South American region gave an overview of the activities taking place in their respective Association. The group explained how they interact at the regional level and how important this cooperation is for South America. They stressed that it is paramount to raise awareness and interest among the membership of controllers for them to get involved within their organization.

The afternoon was dedicated to a presentation made by Mr. Mick Devine (Regional Vice-President, NATCA – USA) on the “Stop and Go Funding” issues in the United States, the state of the US NAS and NATCA’s strategy to tackle this important issue.

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IFATCA Americas Regional Meeting in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina – Day 1

The 36th IFATCA Regional Meeting of the Americas region started this morning at 9:30AM. Mr. John Carr, Executive Vice-President Americas, offered some opening remarks to the participants, followed by the organizing committee from ATEPSA addressing the audience. The meeting continued with a brief overview of IFATCA’s activities in ICAO and a summary of the recent ICAO 40th triennal Assembly highlights, presented by Mr. Jean-François Lepage, Liaison Officer to the ICAO Air Navigation Commission.

The rest of the day was dedicated to two presentations of great interest. The first presenter, Mr. Steven Hansen (NATCA, USA) presented the Just Culture model developed and used in the United States: ATSAP (Air Traffic Safety Action Programme). The second presenter, Mrs. Emilce Molina (ATEPSA, Argentina) gave an overview of the GEFLA programme, related to innovative strategies to optimize human resources and relationships between air traffic controllers and pilots.

Mrs. Emilce Molina, ATCO Aeroparque (Buenos Aires)

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IFATCA European Regional Meeting in Aqaba, Jordan – Day 2

On its second day, the IFATCA European Regional Meeting in Aqaba discussed controller training in Europe. According to ICAO, there will be a need to train and validate an extra 23 500 controllers in the next 20 years to fulfil vacancies created by retirements and cope with traffic increase forecast. The training organization GLOBAL ATS of Denmark explained that with the new young generation, we need to adapt training to them if we want to succeed.

Then Iacopo Prissinotti, the new Eurocontrol Network manager, told the meeting that despite an increase in traffic of 1,3 %, the average delay decreased by 10% in 2019 so far, but at 1,8 min per fight, it remained well above expectations.

He advocated more discipline in the network, especially regarding flight plan adherence.

Finally Helena Sjöström, IFATCA Deputy President, promoted her newly created Equality, Diversity and Ethics Task Force (EDETF).

Iacopo Prissinotti, EUROCONTROL Network Manager

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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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IFATCA European Regional Meeting in Aqaba, Jordan – Day 1

The ERM started in the Jordan town of Aqaba and was opened by the CEO of the Jordan CAA who welcomed around 100 delegates representing 32 European Associations. The ERM was preceeded by a meering of the representatives working for SESAR and a workshop.

Mustafa Abu Farah, chairman of JATCA,
Captain Haitham Misto, CEO of Jordan CAA and
Tom Laursen opening the ERM

During the day a large part of the discussions were concentrating around Just Culture and its effects on Europeans controllers after the Swiss judiciary guilty verdicts imposed on Controllers after incidents.

The representative of Switzerland controllers gave a long briefing of the status of the situation and IFATCA EVP Europe detailed the actions the meeting will be taking, which will include a presentation at the next ICAO EASPG Meeting and information papers on this subject.

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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 5Mb in size and requires a PDF viewer to be able to read it. A higher quality version is available via this link (50Mb).
  • For Member Associations: a print-ready PDF version (about 50Mb) 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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European Aviation Artificial Intelligence High-Level Group

The Kickoff meeting of the European Aviation Artificial Intelligence High-Level Group took place at the EUROCONTROL headquarters in Brussels on 16 September 2019. This group, formed with experts from different aviation areas, is tasked to study how Artificial Intelligence can be included in ATM. Their ambitious target is to produce a report on the subject by the end of the year including recommendations. IFATCA is included in the team and will ensure that the operational point of view is covered in the final report.

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Just Culture: Are we sustaining a false belief?

Prof. Dekker

By Sidney W. A. Dekker, currently a professor at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, where he founded the Safety Science Innovation Lab. He is also Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland. He flew as First Officer on Boeing 737s for Sterling and later Cimber Airlines out of Copenhagen. In 2004, he wrote the following article in the aftermath of the Linate accident.

We like to believe that accidents happen because a few people do stupid things. That some people just do not pay attention. Or that some people have become complacent and do not want to do a better job.

On the surface, there is often a lot of support for these ideas. A quick look at what happened at Linate, for example, shows that controllers did not follow up on position reports, that airport managers did not fix a broken radar system in time, that nobody had bothered to maintain markings and signs out on the airport, and that controllers did not even know about some of the stop marks and positions out on the taxiway system. And of course, that a Cessna pilot landed in conditions that were below his minima. He should never have been there in the first place.

When we dig through the rubble of an accident, these shortcomings strike us as egregious, as shocking, as deviant, or even as criminal. If only these people had done their jobs! If only they had done what we pay them to do! Then the accident would never have happened. There seems only one way to go after such discoveries: fire the people who did not do their jobs. Perhaps even prosecute them and put them in jail. Make sure that they never touch a safety-critical system again. In fact, set an example by punishing them: make sure that other people like them will do their jobs diligently and correctly, so that they do not also lose their jobs or land in jail.

The problem with this logic is that it does not get us anywhere. The problem with this logic is that it does not work the way we hope. What we believe is not what really happens. The reason the logic does not work is twofold. First, accidents don’t just happen because a few people do stupid things or don’t pay attention. Second, firing or punishing people does not create progress on safety: it does not prevent such accidents from happening again. The only thing that we sustain by this logic of individual errors and punishment is our illusions. Systems don’t get safer by punishing people. Systems don’t get safer by thinking that humans are the greatest risk.

Let’s look at the first problem. Accidents don’t just happen because a few people do stupid things or don’t pay attention. Accidents are not just “caused” by those people. There is research that shows how accidents are almost normal, expected phenomena in systems that operate under conditions of resource scarcity and competition; that accidents are the normal by-product of normal people doing normal work in everyday organizations that operate technology that is exposed to a certain amount of risk. Accidents happen because entire systems fail. Not because people fail. This is called the systems view. The systems view is in direct contrast to the logic outlined above. The systems view sees the little errors and problems that we discover on the surface as symptoms, not as causes. These things do not “cause” an accident. Rather, they are symptoms of issues that lie much deeper inside a system. These issues may have to do with priorities, politics, organizational communication, engineering uncertainties, and much more.

To people who work in these organizations, however, such issues are seldom as obvious as they are to outside observers after an accident. To people inside organizations, these issues are not noteworthy or special. They are the stuff of doing everyday work in everyday organizations. Think of it: there is no organization where resource scarcity and communication problems do not play some sort of role (just think of your own workplace). But connecting these issues to an accident, or the potential of an accident, before the accident happens, is impossible. Research shows that it is basically outside our ability to imagine accidents as possible. We don’t believe that it is possible that an accident will happen. And what we don’t believe, we cannot predict.

An additional problem is that the potential for having an accident can grow over time. Systems slowly, and unnoticeably, move towards the edge of their safety envelopes. In their daily work people — operators, managers, administrators — make numerous decisions and trade-offs. They solve numerous larger and little problems. This is part and parcel of their everyday work, their everyday lives. With each solved problem comes the confidence that they must be doing the right thing; a decision was made without obvious safety consequences. But other ramifications or consequences of those decisions may be hard to foresee, they may be impossible to predict. The cumulative effect is called drift: the drift into failure. Drifting into failure is possible because people in organizations make thousands of little and larger decisions that to them are seemingly unconnected. But together, eventually, all these little, normal decisions and actions can push a system over the edge. Research shows that recognizing drift is incredibly difficult, if not impossible — either from the inside or the outside of the organization.

Continue to part 2

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