Social dialogue meeting discusses wide range of workforce issues

SD 1The first FABCE Social Dialogue meeting of 2017 took place in Bratislava on 19 May, with Pavol Gelinger of LPS in the chair and Nataša Sumirat Adikusumah, President of the Croatian Air Traffic Controllers Union, co-chairing. Thirty-five representatives of staff and FABCE management discussed a number of workplace issues.

Matej Eljon, director of FAB CE Aviation Ltd, outlined the detailed projects and strategic goals of the many cooperative programmes underway among the seven air navigation service providers of FABCE.

Specific workforce issues were then discussed, including differences in national government policies towards retirement age and pension entitlement, progress towards a common competence scheme for air traffic safety electronic personnel (ATSEP) (See “Meeting EU requirements for the ATSEP common competence scheme”, 18 May), the workforce implications of the A4 Airlines Group minimum ATS service proposal and an update of the FABEC social dialogue process, highlighting the parallel functional airspace bloc social forum work going on in other European States.

Meeting EU requirements for the ATSEP common competence scheme

atsep 1The EU released new legislation in March 2017 which requires member states to adopt a common competence scheme for the Air Traffic Safety Electronic Professional (ATSEP) from January 2020.

Regulation (EU) No 373/2017 harmonises the ATSEP personnel requirements including the training and competence keeping requirements, and replaces the patchwork of national regulation and/or intra-company rules relating to ATSEP training, competences, and authorisations.

The ruling reflects work already underway by FAB CE member states to facilitate atsep 2harmonisation of personnel requirements for ATSEPs across the region. The Human Resources Sub Committee (HR SubC) developed a baseline plan for the implementation of the Common Competence Scheme, known as Deliverable 11 (D11), in 2015. HR SubC is now tasked with updating this document in line with the latest ruling, and with setting up a task force to prepare and deliver an ATSEP common competence scheme for FAB CE member states. “The same criteria applies to all ANSPs for the recruitment, training and assessment of ATSEPs, so it makes sense to do this work together,” says Matej Eljon, FAB CE Programme Manager and Director of FAB CE Aviation Services, the body set up to run FAB CE activity. “Each ANSP can benefit from a wider pool of qualified engineers, and be confident they operate to recognised standards.” FAB CE was the first FAB to publish a baseline ATSEP plan and continues to lead the delivery of a common competence scheme.

D11 set out the requirements and processes for obtaining and maintaining ATSEP personnel competency across FAB CE ANSPs. It created a ‘raw model’ for the harmonisation of recruiting, training and authorisations for ATSEP staff based on the existing practises already in use by member states. HR SubC has also carried out a gap analysis to see where practices by individual states are at variance with the raw model. The SubC is now working with ANSPs to define the scope of a common scheme, for example identifying common requirements to enter the profession, common training content, and common qualifications. The SubC is also working through the Social Dialogue forum. Participants in the Social Dialogue provide information and views on all FAB CE developments and issues, in particular focussing on those directly affecting employees. On the employer side, the FAB CE ANSP CEO Chair represents FAB CE ANSP management, while FAB CE staff are represented by bodies representing FAB CE employees. After each meeting, CEOC and staff representatives issue joint and agreed communication through appropriate channels to the FAB workforce.

A workshop during Q4 2017 will review different scenarios, and enable the HR SubC to set up a project plan and appoint a task force with assign resources. The workshop is an important milestone in setting the future pathway for a common competence scheme.

HR SubC chairman Zoran Jakšić says the project delivers a number of FAB CE Strategic Objectives (FSO), set out by the FAB CE Steering Committee. In addition to common training amongst ANSPs, it contributes to a common approach to technical operation and preventive maintenance of systems, rendering the service quality more predictable while potentially making instructor cost savings available.

The ATSEP common competence scheme also benefits from an initiative set up by FAB CE, subsequently expanded to include some FABEC members, to harmonise assessments for ATSEP INITIAL training. The QUestionnaire for ATSEP Standard Assessment Routine (QUASAR) aims to develop a standard questionnaire to assess the level of ATSEP training achieved. The initiative has attracted a lot of ANSP interest since it formed in 2015 - NATS UK recently joined - with ANSPs exchanging question banks and sharing assessment material. QUASAR achieved a milestone in March 2017 when it finalised a questionnaire designed to assess if an engineer has passed the BASIC level of training. It can be used to determine if an ATSEP can progress to domain qualification training in more specialised fields of ATC maintenance. On acceptance of the final version, all member countries will be able to start with implementation of the QUASAR standard assessment for ATSEP-BASIC. The task force also intends to make the assessment public so it can be promoted to other interested organisations.

“The QUASAR task force is a trans-FAB group which over the years has been working very successfully as a self-organised, active group,” says Jakšić. “The task force is now looking to set up a generic working concept for QUALIFICATION training.” It aims to populate question banks for each of the DOMAIN training areas including communication, navigation, surveillance, data processing, and system monitoring and control will need added contribution from individual members. The task force is also looking to enlist the support of the Project Support Office (PSO), which provides administrative and consultative support to FAB CE Aviation Services.

Further support for the ATSEP common competence scheme is provided by the FAB CE Technical Sub Committee (TEC SubC). This includes providing ATSEP expertise as needed and verifying tasks are aligned with current practice. Input from ATSEPs ensures the common competence scheme is based on operational experience, and reflects the practical requirements of ANSPs. The HR SubC is already well versed in the process, having already completed the common competence scheme for air traffic controllers (ATCOs), airspace management position (AMP), and flow management position (FMP) staff in 2015. This was achieved well in advance of EU regulation 340/2015 which came into force in January 2017.

The HR SubC plans to include National Supervisory Authority (NSA) participation from member states in 2018, starting with a follow-up workshop during Q1/Q2 2018 which will review draft content prepared by the task force. The aim is to prepare a final version of the ATSEP common competence scheme for ANSP review in Q4 2018, followed by approval from the Steering Committee and CEO Committee by the end of the year.

FAB CE Cross-border Free Route Airspace study paves the way to the future

Validation 2 smThe completion at the end of April of FAB CE’s major study into the introduction of Free Route Airspace (FRA) throughout the FAB CE area (“Free Route Airspace – from the Black Forest to the Black Sea”) is a significant work of research, with important findings for FAB CE airspace alliance members and beyond.

FRA is a pivotal element of the European Commission’s Single European Sky programme and according to Implementing Regulation (EU) No 716/2014 FRA will be implemented throughout Europe from 1st of January Validation 1 sm2022. The study is an integral part of the work programme managed by FABCE Aviation Services Ltd, the legal entity responsible for supporting the implementation of the FAB CE programme.

Within the FRA concept aircraft operators can freely plan a route between a defined entry point and a defined exit point without reference to the air traffic services (ATS) route network; every aircraft operator defines its user preferred trajectory according to its business intentions. For all aircraft operators the introduction of FRA, in theory, offers better flight predictability and shorter routes – which means less time in the air, less fuel burn, lower costs and a reduced environmental impact. Savings in distance from these improvements – if applied throughout Europe - could be as much as 25,000 NM a day, according to Eurocontrol figures, which would lead to annual savings of 45,000 tons of fuel, 150,000 tonnes of emissions and EUR 37 million in operational charges to airspace users.

FAB CE members have led the way in introducing the concept within Europe – especially in the challenging areas of cross-border (“X -Border”) operations.

The key benefit expected from the project is to create a clear definition of the operational end technical pre-conditions for a conceived FAB CE X-Border Free Route Airspace.

The study aims to define the operational and technical pre-conditions to implement
the FAB CE Free Route Airspace, including Concept of Operations (CONOPS), the necessary related validation exercises and the required developments and upgrades of ATM systems by FAB CE members. Time frame of the study was September 2015 – April 2017.

Validation exercises of FAB CE CONOPS were divided into Fast-Time Simulations (FTS) - to calculate horizontal and vertical inefficiencies - and Real-Time Simulations (RTS) - to assess specific operational procedures. Special attention was given to the adequacy of ATC support tools, capacity analysis and the situation with active military airspace areas. Throughout the RTS the effects on controllers’ workload and situational awareness were measured.

The results of the simulations led to the following conclusions:

  1. The unrestricted FAB CE level cross-border FRA concept provides the desired benefits for airspace users in terms of horizontal flight efficiency while no difference could be identified in vertical flight efficiency.
  2. The non-FRA specific and both versions of the tested FRA specific operational procedures proved to be adequate to handle all – including military – operations.
  3. The tested versions of areas-of-common-interest concepts cannot be distinguished by significant difference in workload or situational awareness values during their application.
  4. The different mitigation techniques may need to include a combination of modified sector boundaries, regulation (channelling) of traffic flows and regulation of traffic demand.
  5. Implementation of additional ATM tools will probably have a beneficial effect on controller workload and situational awareness.

“We also examined the vertical inefficiency in climb, cruise and descent, but we did not find significant difference with the introduction of FRA, which strengthens the assumption that the vertical profiles will not be degraded,” said Martin Stieber, Austro Control, Project Manager of the study.

The Final Simulation Report also concludes that the sector occupancy was an important predictor of the workload, although it was not the only contributor. The distribution of the conflict points, the traffic complexity, the lateral boundaries of the sector and the available system support tools in the system also played key roles in changes of the workload and situational awareness figures.

Multiple recommendations have made by the report for ATC support tools such as variances of the probe function and specific, map-based or time-based support tools that could be essential for handling FRA operations within the areas of common interest.

The study itself has been developed as a baseline evaluation of the feasibility of implementing FRA in the FAB CE area. “It provides the participating ANSPs with a framework for the individual implementation activities rather than a ‘big bang’ implementation approach to FRA,” said Martin Stieber. “We believe a step-by-step approach is considered as the preferred implementation path.”

The study allows now FAB programme management to assess the feasibility of the potential extension of FAB CE FRA operations to neighbouring functional airspace blocks (FABs) as well - particularly to FABEC and Danube FAB.


FAB CE completes FAB-wide datalink safety survey

FAB CE air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have pooled their resources and expertise to conduct a single safety audit of datalink services which covers the entire functional airspace block.

According to (EU) No 1035/2011 Annex II, 3.1.2 (e) providers of air traffic services have to carry out a safety management system audit of controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC) providers to ensure “adequate justification of the safety of the externally provided services and supplies, having regard to their safety significance within the provision of its external services and supplies”.

FAB CE ANSPs decided to centralize this function by developing a common FAB CE level safety survey to provide an overview and evidence for specific safety aspects in the provision of datalink services to FAB CE ANSPs.

“The survey has been a major success in regard to the fulfillment of the scope and received feedback from all the involved stakeholders,” said Andreas Dvorak, chairman of the FAB CE Safety Sub Committee. “It was the first time air/ground communication service providers have been involved in such a safety survey and the aim and outcome of the survey was really appreciated by them. The result is now available for all FAB CE ANSPs and is a very effective and efficient control measure.”

The survey was carried out by four safety surveyors from three different FAB CE ANSPs and was performed in compliance with FAB CE rules and procedures for performing safety surveys on a FAB CE level, which are harmonized and defined within the FAB CE Safety Management System.

Planning activities took place in Vienna, Budapest and Prague, hosted by each ANSP, and onsite-visits have been carried out at the European headquarters of the global air/ground communication service provider.

April launch for Safety/Capacity Enhancement Measures

ACC Vienna

From April 27 this year airlines and other airspace users will benefit from safer and more on-time performance as a result of the introduction of short term air traffic flow capacity management measures (STAM) throughout FAB CE airspace.

“We expect improvements in safety and capacity,” said Ralph Michalke, ATM/Performance Manager FMP-AMC Austria at Austro Control and one of the members of the project. “Safety – in terms of fewer overloads for controllers and capacity in terms of helping us reduce the delay and the number of regulations during short-term traffic peaks.”

FAB CE FMP (Flow Management Position) operators can flexibly introduce traffic-overload prevention measures in response to the actual demand on the system by targeting individual flights with a STAM– through the use of level-capping for aircraft already airborne or introducing “take-off not before” (TONB) actions at airports. In this way, locally preferred solutions to local traffic overload challenges can be applied rather than having to resort to large-scale regulations which impact many flights.

FABCE FMPs also aim to improve the FMP coordination within the FAB to optimize STAM. The necessary coordination procedures are part of the letters of agreement of the FABCE ACCs as from 27 April 2017.

Considerable work has been taken to introduce STAMs across the FAB CE network. A live trial took place in September 2015 which was preceded by a generic safety assessment for the entire FAB. After successful completion of the live trial a decision to implement the measures across the FAB was taken. Each air navigation service provider (ANSP) additionally prepared a safety assessment for introducing STAMs at the local level for both the live trial and the implementation. Guidance and briefing materials have been prepared for flow management positions, supervisors and controllers.

Airspace users are informed of the changes via AIM (ATFCM information messages) provided via the Eurocontrol NOP portal. At a local level ANSPs can inform the airspace users via AIC or NOTAM.

This is the first phase of the STAM roll-out, based on existing tools. The Operations Subcommittee in September 2016 agreed to develop a roadmap for a future FAB CE wide implementation of STAMs as part of work to improving Airspace Management (ASM) processes and Dynamic Airspace Management (DAM) (See FAB CE Newsletter: Autumn 2016). STAM phase two will require the availability of new tools which will allow for better monitoring and complexity handling. These tools are currently under developing within the SESAR JU research portfolio; the strategic deployment of STAMs throughout the Single European Sky is part of the Single European Sky (SES) Deployment Programme.