Top 5 ATM operational safety studies now available

29 April 2016

How can operational safety be improved across the network? Five top safety priority areas have been earmarked to help do this.

The Network Manager identifies network safety issues to support aviation stakeholders in mitigating existing hazards and anticipating new operational risks. Our ultimate goal is both to keep the network safe and to increase its capacity and efficiency.

The EUROCONTROL Safety Improvement Sub-Group (SISG), reporting to the EUROCONTROL Safety Team, was tasked with identifying the Top 5 ATM Operational Safety Priorities.

SISG carried out a review in the summer of 2012. A series of dedicated workshops were held with six ANSPs, representing a large part of European air traffic. Comprehensive barrier models – Safety Functions Maps (SAFMAPs) - were developed and populated with the ANSPs’ representative data.

The incident data is for high severity (classified as ‘A’ and ‘B’) events, which, because they are thoroughly investigated, provide a great deal of information.

Using the SAFMAP analysis, the top five priority areas were defined.

Risk of operation without transponder or with a dysfunctional one

Risk of operation without transponder or with a dysfunctional one

Operations without transponder or with a dysfunctional one constitute a threat: transponder-less operations have the potential to bypass existing safety barriers.

Landing without ATC clearance

Landing without ATC clearance

Aircraft sometimes land without ATC clearance, resulting in Runway Incursions that are often only resolved by ‘providence’.

Detection of occupied runway

Detection of occupied runway

Some Runway Incursion incidents could be prevented if controllers had better means of detecting runway occupation when issuing clearances to aircraft which are about to use the runway.

“Blind spot” – inefficient conflict detection with the closest aircraft

“Blind spot” – inefficient conflict detection with the closest aircraft

Loss of separation “blind spot” events occur when the controller does not detect a conflict with the closest aircraft in the vicinity. Blind spots usually form after a descent clearance and in the context of a rapidly developing situation – often when the conflicting aircraft are 1,000ft and 15 nm apart.

Conflict detection with adjacent sectors

Conflict detection with adjacent sectors

Losses of Separation in the en-route environment sometimes involve the “inadequate coordination” of clearance with an adjacent sector. These typically involve an early (premature) transfer of control to or from the neighbouring sector.

This selection was agreed by SISG and endorsed by the Safety Team.

Each ‘Top 5’ priority was subject to a dedicated ATM Operational Safety Study that aims to:

  • provide additional insight on causal/contributory factors;
  • suggest actions to reduce or eliminate risk factors;
  • identify industry best practices and lessons learned for sharing with affected stakeholder groups;
  • underpin the development of SKYbrary materials (to further all of the above).

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