Jez Pigden and Tom Harrison, Manager Professional and Legal, attended 2 days of the 2017 European Regional Meeting (ERM) of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), which took place in Loipersdorf, Austria, from the 26th to the 28th of September, and contained a full and interesting program of various ATC topics.
The impending announcement of the terms of the Single European Sky Reference Period 3 (RP3) and the results and problems caused by RP2 dominated discussions in various ways. Individual member associations shared the issues they face and, again, RP2 is often a factor, either directly or as an exacerbation of an existing problem.
In particular, Eastern Europe is still being badly affected by the rapid change to the traffic patterns, caused by the partial closure of Ukrainian airspace. The growth of lower revenue traffic around Eastern Europe airspace has increased its complexity without necessarily increasing revenue in the region, made worse by RP2 caps on revenue and resulting in very challenging conditions for air traffic controllers.
A strong voice for the air traffic controllers in the UK and in Europe is indeed needed as RP3 negotiations continue. Whatever the picture is for the UK aviation industry after Brexit, UK ATC will be subject to RP3 and potentially, future Reference Periods. These will affect all air traffic controllers in the UK whether it be via performance targets, cost cutting, or changes to licensing and other regulations.
Just Culture or, more accurately, the lack of just culture was a concern. Member associations discussed cases where just culture hasn’t been applied and controllers have faced or are facing prosecution, not only where accidents have occurred but where separation was lost or a ‘near-miss’ happened.
Discussions also took place about some forthcoming changes to regulations and licensing in 2019, fatigue management, in the form of a workshop, and the role of the European Network Manager, Eurocontrol, within the Single European Sky.
Those discussions raised awareness of a number of current concerns and future issues facing our profession. IFATCA does a lot of work to produce papers which shape future aviation policy and to lobby for changes to existing regulation. This is vital work, sometimes to counter proposals from policymakers, politicians or ANSPs, in order to promote positive changes to support the controller. GATCO is heavily involved with representatives on panels across Europe so the voice of all air traffic controllers in the UK is heard.