On the other side of the band: a meeting place for ATCOs, pilots and airlines

Fostering closer relations between air traffic controllers and pilots by analysing specific problems they face in their work is one of the core objectives of an air navigation service provider.

In order to do this, we created the awareness-raising campaign Al otro lado de la frecuencia (On the Other Side of the Band) in 2013 with the collaboration of the COPAC Commercial Pilots’ Association, the APROCTA Air Traffic Controllers' Association and the ACETA Spanish Air Transport Companies Association and have run it every year since.

The challenge

  • To promote a meeting place so that sector professionals can exchange opinions and insights in chats held at various of the control sites where ENAIRE provides its services.
  • To run a reflection exercise with ATCOs on how they see us “on the other side of the band” and improve this perception, both with regards safety and service quality.

Strategy

To put the initiative into practice, the ENAIRE Safety Division, together with regional safety departments, select specific topics to address and choose a main theme that provides the title for the campaign and which is of concern at the time. The sites where the chats are to be held are then selected, along with any other specific topics to address.

Controlador aéreo

A selection of safety incidents reflecting the aspects to address during the chat is prepared for each site and outreach material is developed to illustrate the problem in question, such as a short video or presentation. These are used during the chat, moderated by the ENAIRE regional operational safety manager, and then put up for discussion by the attendees.

Good practices and lessons learnt are discussed afterwards, along with campaign conclusions, and the event is brought to a close.

Success

On the Other Side of the Band has been enormously successful, as shown by the fact that six campaigns have been carried out to date, with 22 sessions at 13 different sites drawing over 400 professionals from the aviation industry.

The event with pilots, who are usually ‘on the other side of the band’, was an excellent occasion to be able to understand and clarify pilots’ needs and viewpoints regarding the transmission of information and clearances. A very enriching experience that I thoroughly recommend.” Elena Merino Boyle, ATCO, Palma.

This fantastic initiative has given me the chance to understand the sometimes invisible difficulties and challenges our ATCO colleagues face”. Miguel Pons Moncada, Eurowings pilot.

The principal benefits of an event like the one afforded by the campaign is the chance for the main players involved in operations (pilots and controllers) to gain a common understanding, which positively impacts maintenance and improvement of the highest aviation safety levels.

This all comes about through a better understanding of the mutual influence of pilot and ATCO work by analysing the specific problems they face in their jobs.

For Antonio Guerrero, head of the ENAIRE Department of Safety Promotion and Culture and project manager, “The consolidation and success of this campaign is a reflection of the involvement of the operational personnel, in other words, pilots and ATCOs, as well as members of professional associations and companies like APROCTA, COPAC and ACETA, in their commitment to safety, supporting a positive and proactive safety culture”.

Although there are other forums by companies and ANSPs, they are usually related to management and address problems generic to the profession. This campaign, by contrast, makes it possible to establish a working forum which approaches a site's specific problems in detail and engages the operational personnel who work on either side of the frequency band.

The topics addressed at the editions held to date have been:

  • Question of Priorities: You First, You Next, about operations at a TMA.
  • I No Understand, in relation to communication problems over the band.
  • Don't Mind If I Do: Unauthorised Landings and Take-offs, looking at this specific problem that arose from a series of incidents in relation to this area.
  • Let’s Talk Safety, about specific problems at each site where the chats are held.
  • Keep Calm and Think Safety, focusing on the importance of remaining calm in an emergency.
  • At Your Orders: Protocol Compliance, referring to the importance of complying with the procedures and instructions given, both pilots and ATCOs.