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Latest Eurocontrol safety team meeting

The Eurocontrol Safety Team is a specialist advisory body established within the framework of Eurocontrol driving safety improvement in the provision of Air Navigation Services in the ECAC States.  The Safety Team which convenes several times per year, held its latest (24th) meeting on 15-16 October in Malta, hosted by MATS (Maltese Air Traffic Services).

Malta Air Traffic Services (MATS)
The meeting commenced with a welcome presentation from MATS.  The agency started in 1979 after the United Kingdom forces overseeing air traffic services, left the island of Malta.  Of particular note is despite having a small landmass of approximately 122 square miles, the island of Malta’s airspace extends to over 100k square miles, bordering Italy, Greece and Northern Africa.  Malta has one airport, Luqa Int’l, which utilised one ATC Tower with PBN approaches on all four runways.  During 2020, new SIDs/STARs are going to be introduced for each runway.  MATS itself employs approximately thirty people, divided into two sections covering Technical and Operational issues.

Standard of Excellence (SoE) in Safety Management Systems (Eurocontrol / CANSO)
The SoE in SMS is designed to support the from the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP), and promoted by the ICAO Safety Management Manual, that achievement of the highest level of SMS maturity is a long-term process that must proceed in a very deliberate step-wise manner.  Forty-three EU ANSP’s were sent a questionnaire to gauge where they are with the promotion of their SMS and safety culture etc.  Thirty-five of the EU ANSPs responded plus a further ten from non-EU regions (CANSO). The aim of the exercise was not to check regulatory compliance but to drive improvement.  A reoccurring issue was that some ANSPs still seem to be Maturity Level Driven.  It was noted that reducing this mind set or maintaining a score continues to be perceived as a negative outcome with a few of the ANSPs.  Of interest was the extent that ANSPs are experiencing cyber-attacks and drones/laser events.

Swiss Prosecution Cases  (Skyguide – Switzerland)
Skyguide is a joint-stock company under Swiss private law which is responsible, on behalf of the Swiss Confederation, for ensuring the safety of all Swiss airspace and of adjoining airspace areas in Germany, Austria, France and Italy that have been delegated to its control.  Their presentation focussed on a case dating back to 2011 where there was a double take-off clearance issued by ATC at Zurich airport.  The case was pursued legally, with the controller concerned initially acquitted of any fault at a District Court in 2016.  However, this decision was then overturned via the Supreme Court in 2018.  The controller, with the support of Skyguide, has now escalated the case to the Federal Court where a decision is currently pending.  This is one of several cases were Skyguide has supported/represented one of its employees through judicial proceedings.  Of particular note is a Joint Just Culture campaign initiated by Skyguide earlier this year involving ANSPs, airlines, airports, unions and IFATCA etc. to try to prevent a repeat of the above case.  This has resulted in a change to Swiss law meaning there are now separate safety and criminal investigations and better protection of safety data and information.

Luton Airport ‘Safety Stack’  (London Luton Airport / Eurocontrol)
Organisations, such as ANSPs, airports and airlines, are part of a wider system, and so safety issues in one organisation, or at the interfaces between them, can have implications for others. Therefore, there is a need for collaboration between these organisations.  This led to the establishment of the Luton Airport ‘Safety Stack’ in 2017, that comprises of a group of fifteen organisations, all based at the airport, collaborating to discuss safety issues and opportunities.  The presentation outlined how the concept is quite simple in that it recognises that at an airport, many organisations have to work together to enable smooth, efficient and safe airport operations for passengers, freight and business users. Such users range from airlines, air traffic control and ground handlers, to de-icers, fuel services, baggage handlers, caterers and cleaning services. They already work closely together and therefore should collaborate on safety.  As a result, thirty-two procedures have now been standardised across Luton airport with a 100% reduction in ground handling incidents during the first six months of the scheme.  One good example is the chocking of an A320 aircraft.  Due to the high number of airlines at Luton airport who operate the A320, there were actually ten different ways of chocking the aircraft, depending on the airline.  The Safety Stack discussed this issue and as such there is now one recognised procedure that has been adopted by all the airlines and ground handlers.  Bristol airport would soon be following the same scheme and there are plans for Dublin airport to adopt this positive approach in the future.

Eurocontrol Operational Safety Activity  (Eurocontrol)
This was an extensive and detailed overview of the safety critical areas of Eurocontrol, including the Safety Forum co-hosted with ERA and the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF).  Eurocontrol’s operational safety activity are divided into three categories.  Level One comprises of three operational safety hazards where action plans are maintained, namely:

• Mid-Air Collision (Level-Bust, Air-Ground Comms & Airspace Infringement)
• Runway Collision (EAPPRI – ‘European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Incursions’)
• Runway Excursion (EAPPRE – ‘European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions’)

Regarding EAPPRE, to accompany a new Global Reporting Format (GRF) it was noted that new ICAO provisions on how runway conditions are reported will enter into effect in November 2020.
Level Two comprises of the Eurocontrol current ‘Top 5’ operational safety studies:
• ATC Controller Blind Spots,
• TCAS RA not followed,
• Flights without transponder or a dysfunctional one,
• Controller detection of a potential runway conflict,
• Sudden, high-energy runway conflicts.

The third and final tier of hazards are those deemed necessary for current monitoring and are analysed on an ad-hoc basis.  Such hazards include controller workload, low-level go-around, adverse weather avoidance and VFR flights in TMA/CTR airspace.

Of particular note are the various safety knowledge tools that Eurocontrol has on offer for all stakeholders, including the online Skybrary portal and the Baseline Information Gathering Gateway.  This latter system has been designed to facilitate the occurrence investigation and safety analysis tasks of safety investigators and operational safety managers.

The date and location for the next meeting (25th) of the Eurocontrol Safety Team – ST/25, will be advised in due course.