View Full Version : The Truth Will Out.....
Nogbad the Bad
26th May 2002, 18:48
I shall just post this link here, and let you all draw your own conclusions about just how BAD management has been - and still is - within NATS.
I hope people other than NATS ATCOs read this......
26th May 2002, 19:32
Gee, the Australian Experience all over again. How many times does the wheel have to be re-invented?
26th May 2002, 19:48
Swanwick was, and still is, ringfenced by some senior engineers that have designed an ATC centre for engineers - it works just fine as far as they are concerned. The system was dumped by the Americans after spending enough $ to by West London.
By 1995 The displays had probably improved over the light grey on dark grey 'design' provided at great expense by the Royal College of Art as an engineer decided that the displays chosen by ATCO's was not good enough and he knew better! Of course, you could not see the aircraft but hey, its pretty and pleasing on the eye and apart from not being able to see the aircraft its perfect!
You guys just need to take control of YOUR systems.:cool:
26th May 2002, 19:50
It'll be re-invented long enough to keep software engineers in Ferraris.
27th May 2002, 05:03
Great stuff folks... I just copied the article to send to some of our folks in DC...
Good luck to all of you.
Flight Plan Fixer
27th May 2002, 05:53
Actually Spitoon, the contracting software engineers still being employed at NATS after eight profitable years seem to drive TVRs...there are at least three of 'em at LACC, just look out of the window...
27th May 2002, 07:43
And the ones that took the money and ran when it looked like it was getting far too difficult have probably been polishing their Italian beaties all weekend.
Do I sound bitter about contractors (particularly software ones)?
Flight Plan Fixer
27th May 2002, 08:11
Well, let's look on the bright side.
A contractor or project manager is usually judged to be as good as their last contract or gig....with all of the bad press Swanwick has had recently, having NATS on your CV is going to make these contractors as welcome as a f@<hidden> in a spacesuit.
See, there is a God...and she looks like Gwyneth Dunwoody.
But howcum the NERC and NATS management c.1992 to 1997 still have jobs?
Nogbad the Bad
27th May 2002, 10:14
Flight Plan Fixer.........
<But howcum the NERC and NATS management c.1992 to 1997 still have jobs?>>
GOOD point !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
27th May 2002, 15:57
It'll be re-invented long enough to keep software engineers in Ferraris. God, this is wonderful news! When does mine arrive? I can't wait to dump the old VW.
Actually, you are correct to a degree. As I've pointed out here ad nauseam, we've gone round and round on screen design. Each time we thought, incorrectly as it turns out, that we'd been given the straight story about what the controllers really needed.
Rather than continue this s***-heaving contest, let's see if we can get it right this time. To that end, I'll go off and see if I can find out what we're currently implementing, and post my findings here. Give me a couple days.
27th May 2002, 17:15
I would hope that you're curently not implimenting ANYTHING, at least not until ALL the operational watches have seen the PROPOSALS.
This is to be done in the TDU over the next week apparently, so we can all see what has been suggested.
My only comment is that the note stating all this is "loaded" with the threat that if we don't approve of the changes, it will be YEARS before anything gets done. The implied threat being that if we don't go along with the proposals it'll all be our fault that nothing gets done, rather than our beloved management.
27th May 2002, 18:14
Sorry Bex, I heard from sound source over the week-end
that the union have already accepted the little that is on
offer - and that won't be available for about 6 months. :mad:
27th May 2002, 19:15
...the union have already accepted... This is how it happens, don't you see? Someone else arrives saying "We speak for the controllers", and the software crowd jump through a bunch more hoops giving you guys something you still don't like.
Who the hell does speak for you? And are you capable of reaching a consensus on what is acceptable, or are half of you going to be dissatisfied no matter what we build?
27th May 2002, 19:16
Just a note. The 'NERC' software is written by Lockheed Martin in the USA and managed (quite well actually) by IBM/Lockheed Martin contractors. hence the £150,000 a build and the occasional Ferrari (or TVR). I don't know what the costs are for NAS but I do know that they are a great deal less and, after all, NAS seems to be the dog to the Swanwick tail. (I am quite sure that would sound better the other way around!)
The only TVR owner I know of at NERC is an ATCO.:cool:
30th May 2002, 17:10
Looking into the current state of the screen fonts issue, I've been able to find out only a little -- and also want to be sensitive to the fact that it remains largely a NATS internal issue at present. But here's some info:
NATS has tasked L-M to build a prototype of a new screen design. It was shown to a number of "controllers" last Friday in a lab environment. Not sure who that group actually included.
I understand (hall rumour!) that the prototype will be appearing soon in a TDU near you, targetted to as wide an audience as possible. I don't know how user feedback will be handled during that exercise. I hope this will be your opportunity to be heard.
Name deleted. It is not PPRuNe policy to name individuals who are not in the public eye - PPRuNe Radar
30th May 2002, 18:20
If you and your fellow controllers don't make a decision next week then when will a decision be made??? The operational ATCO's from various watches who 'represent' ALL of you have responded in this general fashion "Oh yes I would use that font but I am not recommending anything because I'm not taking responsibilty for it with my watch"
What are management to do? Lead every single ATCO by the hand into the TDU and stand over them whilst they look at each font in turn???? :mad:
The reason that you guys need to make a decision soon is the length of time it takes to have these changes implemented. As has been explained to you previously in this forum, system changes don't just magically get written, coded, and tested by pixies overnight. It will take MONTHS to bring changes in font through the safety and testing process. All those cars you complain about that are parked in the car park during weekdays are driven by the many people who do the behind the scenes work (and hard work it is too!!!) to bring these changes to you.
Perhaps you need to come up and see the guys (and girls) in ATC Systems Development for a 'behind the scenes' look at just what is involved in the process of bringing to the coal face changes which you desire. I'm sure that many of, what appear to be, your misconceptions would be cleared up when you realise just whats involved.
Currently the next big software drop is in November (although this might slip due to the work required on fonts). A few goodies in there for you at the coal face which should help. Requested Flight Levels is the biggie and it works really well.
30th May 2002, 18:44
YES... I suggest that management GET AS MANY ATCOs possible to view the "proposals". If this means rostering people to (and therefore means flow control SO BE IT.) This is important. It IS managements job to make sure that the the next incarnation is RIGHT. To do that they need as much input from operational staff as possible.
Remember. The reason we are having to go through all this is a FAILURE OF MANAGEMENT. They KNEW that the current set up was not acceptable and pushed on with it regardless Isn't it about time they actually DID their job?
Oh, and if it turns out that the "proposals" ain't good enough. Then the management will need to think again, but please don't threaten us with "it could take years if you don't accept this". If it isn't good enough, it isn't good enough. END OF STORY.
Once again. Don't blame individual ATCOs. Where's the management? Leadership? If we had some there might be more of a consensus.
Time issues? NERC was SIX YEARS LATE. The mangement are on borrowed time already. They should be pulling out all the stops to fix this regardless of cost , I'll bet they aren't though.
This isn't an ATCOs vs. ATC Systems fight. Both camps have been sorely let down by the NERC Project management team and now the Swanwick operational management teams. If you want someone to rail against, look there. (not that they take ANY responsibility)
Best rgds BEX
30th May 2002, 21:31
BEXIL - I think you are missing the point a little.
Money will not solve the issue and its not managements fault either. To change the fonts is a relatively straightforward,but time consuming, matter once they have been defined. But no-one from Operational ATC is willing to put their neck on the line and I don't blame them.
Your idea about all ATCOs visiting the TDU is a very good one and I think is worthwhile, but how often can we afford (in terms of time) to do this? What happens if 70% are for the new fonts and 30% against, do we throw the changes away?
I don't put forward for one minute that I have the answer. I certainly don't envy the people charged with coming up with it.
30th May 2002, 21:32
I believe that every ATCO AND ATSA should be in there to look at the fonts. The way it can be done is for everyone to be given 15 mins on a break on either Afternoon shift, and then accept or decline. I agree with Bex, if we don't like it, we don't like it and so the whole process will have to start again finding a new design.
We know you are all working damn hard to get things improved, and do apprechiate it greatly, please, just don't get dis-heartened if its still not quite right, second best is what we've had now far too long.
30th May 2002, 21:59
It is entirely a management fault. The systems people put together a system as requested by the MANAGEMENT.
The Operational people told the MANAGEMENT that what they had in mind was not acceptable.
The MANAGEMENT did NOTHING.
I have been told MANY TIMES that changing the fonts is difficult. And now here you are saying that it's no big deal, just a little time consuming. Now if indeed it is true, all we need to do is agree the new fonts.
Here is an Opportunity for NERC management to get it right. All they need to do is ENSURE that as many operational ATCOs (and ATSAs) get to see and comment upon the proposals. This is a management issue. All they need to do is ARRANGE it. Anybody think they are capable of this simple task? No. I thought not.
A challenge. Prove me wrong. Prove that NERC management can actually do this. Arrange for as many operational people as possible see the proposals. If the majority APPROVE of the changes, impliment them ASAP. If the majority DISAPPROVE, come up with something else RAPIDLY. Not in years, in MONTHS.
If NERC management can't actually DO their jobs, perhaps it is time they moved on? Ala Mr. Byers.
30th May 2002, 22:31
There should be input from as many controllers as possible so that you get all points of view. HOWEVER! The union needs to designate a line controller who is in CHARGE of the changes and the program from the line controllers perspective. You don't need a thousand folks making decisions. You need ONE or TWO operational folks making that decision with the informed input of the membership...
We tried the bring everyone down to look at it with AAS. It doesn't work. It just confused the engineers <G>.....
30th May 2002, 23:18
Yep, you're right Scott. We need a TRUSTWORTHY focal point (person) to channel all the ideas through.
It pains me to say that the management haven't provided someone, and SADLY, Prospect don't appear to have either.
As you are aware, I'm a great admirer of what NATCA has achieved BY GETTING INVOLVED with new / future projects. It just doesn't seem to be happening on this side of the pond.
Check your mail buddy!
31st May 2002, 14:36
Appears that ATCOs are like economists...get 10 in a room and you get 15 opinions on what should be the font/ size/color/trackball feel/etc.
As a witness to some of the earlier efforts at AAS in the US I watched as a controller team had a technical meeting with the contractor, provided input ,went away. The contractor worked for a few months and they had another meeting with the controllers. Except it wasn't exactly the same controllers so the input was a little different, and the contractor then went off and incorporated the input for another few months and billed the FAA. Lovely work if you can get it but a terribly way to build a system.
Since it appears that the next software drop is November 2002 (got to be careful to put years in you know) you should be alert to the "incredible shrinking build" game. If a certain drop of software is supposed to be made up of 10 builds you must watch which build has which functionality in it (or function points if you are a S/W person and use that method). What happens sometimes is that the builds all show up on schedule and work fine but don't have the functions in them that they are supposed to have and it all either gets shoved into the last build or 10 builds turn into 12 or more as the schedule slips or (most likely) the drop is delivered on schedule with 10 builds that don't have all the functions they are supposed to have.
Obvious NATS/NERC management has not been fired or disciplined or made to atone for their failures. The have found out how to "fail upward". It happens in many organizations. I've observed it and know it when I see it, but have yet to figure out exactly how it is done.
Specifying displays for ATC (and other) systems requiring resolution, color, and other characteristics is not an easy or quick task. The displays for the FAA system were specificed by the usual engineering measures, but there was only one source for CRTs of the size needed (about 20" square) and that was Sony in Japan, though they later built a plant in California. The characteristics specified for pixel size, resolution etc were as I recall similar to the specifications for very good quality PC monitors at the time, which hasn't changed much to today. This only gives the underlying physical capabilities of the display. Next you have to write the display driver software to use these physical characteristics, and lastly you write the software to write the characters and graphics on the screen. Then it all has to run on the computer platform you are using.
What the controllers can do is get together and agree on what they want and describe it quantitatively. No "you knows" or "just like so and so's" or any of that arm waving. If you can't describe it in a quantitative manner and get it put in a contract the contractor can not be held to build it. What he can do is work his a** off at best effort and send you the bill along with the product. And if it still isn't what you want he'll try again if you can describe it and also send you the bill, again. Not horribly useful.
Good luck to all at Swanwick.
31st May 2002, 16:47
Remember. Management failed completely. They ignored years of complaints from ATCOs. They lied to the HSE when they provided details of the font sizes, which the latter accepted without question.
There is no need for droves of controllers/assistants to stick their individual oars in. Just make sure that the displays meet the Regulations in full - which is exactly what our incompetent leaders should have done in the first place.
Incidentally, Findlay told the Transport Committee on !st May ( look at the hearing transcript) that "two to three months" would be an acceptable timescale for rectifying the font problem. So what is this management ally going to say now that it's apparently going to take until November?
Prospect rules again.
31st May 2002, 17:27
Unison have provided reps and there are at least two named individuals from watches. I cannot provide the names on here obviously but its not the case that there's no representation.
If you trust the people in ATC Systems Development not to be management lackies then you'll find that's where your focal person is.
Which layer of management do you define as being the MANAGEMENT? You've said that management should get everyone through to the TDU to have a look, so who's responsibility is it in your view? Should it be the LAS's, after all they know who's on breaks etc. Next up is it the watch supervisor, or the watch manager? Is it the manager ATC? Is it the General Manager? Is it the Manager ACR? Managing Director maybe? I think there can only be one person and thats the Watch Manager instructing the LAS's to send people through. That is, of course, if he/she can break through the apathy of many operational staff who really don't care. It is striking that the vast majority of staff turn up, move traffic and go home. There appears just to be a hard core of dissenters!
In essence what NERC Dweller says about changing the fonts (certain one's anyway) is correct, its not particularly difficult but it is VERY time consuming to do all the testing. Plus there has to be a software build for it to go on. The next major one is due November, although there are two 'emergency builds' due before then.
I think its a bit strong to say that NATS lied to the HSE. The information that HSE asked for was provided and, if you read their report, they do say that they are (albeit just) within standard. It is very difficult to 'measure' font sizes etc. there are a LOT of factors involved.
Also a recurrent theme in here is that there was never Operational Staff involvement. Well I do wonder what you consider the NTT were doing on the project for 6 years before it opened? Thats in addition to the Operational staff in ATC Systems.
By jove, a chap after my own heart! Rearrange these words into a well known phrase or saying: Hammer nail head hit the on.
31st May 2002, 22:20
I believe ALL the managers you quote are RESPONSIBLE. I'd like to see much more effort to atone for their collective past failure to manage. And FAIL they have.
Sadly I see no evidence of them taking ANY responsibilty for their failures, or worst still, LEARNING from them.
The reason that so many operational people are just turning up, doing the job, and going home, is simple. They don't care anymore. They've had their say on all sorts of issues, AND BEEN IGNORED. So, they reason, what's the point? Management don't give a T*ss anyway, why should we?
The operational staff aren't responsible for this sad state of affairs. Those managers who failed to do their jobs properly ARE.
So what's to be done? Well, I suggest that a "night of the long knives" is well overdue. Identifying the culprits isn't rocket science. Next up an open admission from Everitt that his management teams were WRONG would begin the process of getting the operational staff back on side. Follow this up by ensuring that there are no more secrets, and that the operational staff's views are actively sought out, AND ACTED UPON.
Is any of this likely? Probably not. So we'll continue in the same vein we have now I guess. Just don't expect a whole lot of co-operation from the staff who will continue to "come in, do the job, and go home".... AND NO MORE.
31st May 2002, 23:43
BEX wrote -
"The reason that so many operational people are just turning up, doing the job, and going home, is simple. They don't care anymore. They've had their say on all sorts of issues, AND BEEN IGNORED. So, they reason, what's the point? Management don't give a T*ss anyway, why should we?"
Spot on Bex. I believe we have all been shafted by incompetents who are never held responsible for their screw-ups. Micro managers on £70k+ who are too scared to do the job themselves, so they get off on spending hours poring over travel claims and getting menus faxed to them from restaurants so they can check up on people that are responsible for £100m's worth of aeroplanes. Believe it or not I hear that happened at one of the airports! The sooner liabilities like that are kicked out the better.
ATCOs deserve more respect from the management for the job they do.
1st Jun 2002, 00:50
I have read many of your posts and not responded but your latest musings are just too difficult to ignore.
"Unison have provided reps and there are at least two named individuals from watches."
So have prospect, they are part of the working group, who have said that, in their opinion the new fonts are much better, but they would like us all to take a look. Nothing wrong with that.
"That is, of course, if he/she can break through the apathy of many operational staff who really don't care"
Actually almost all the operational staff care a great deal !!:mad: :mad:
"It is striking that the vast majority of staff turn up, move traffic and go home. There appears just to be a hard core of dissenters! "
NO NO NO, we all think the displays are less then average, you seem to think that because there are not 100 complaints a day everything is ok
Your attitude is sadly typical of all that is wrong in NATS, there is no problem so why do i have do waste my time fixing it.
The NTT complained about fonts, we the ATCO`s involved in OCT complained about the fonts, and i have copies of letters from senioir NERC managers stating there was NO problems with the displays.
Do you actually believe the displays are good or not ?:confused: :confused:
1st Jun 2002, 10:11
Big Nose 1:
Apologies for not including Prospect nor acknowledging their contribution to the working group. Also I appear to have misrepresented myself in your assumption that I don't want the operational staff to look at the new fonts, I do and I would think that all the back room staff do to. We are just FRUSTRATED that no-one seems to be saying yea or nay!!!
"NO NO NO, we all think the displays are less then average, you seem to think that because there are not 100 complaints a day everything is ok"
How can anyone tell something is wrong unless you complain? Its no good sitting muttering in a corner.
"Your attitude is sadly typical of all that is wrong in NATS, there is no problem so why do i have do waste my time fixing it."
Its certainly NOT a waste of my time, its what I'm there to do WHEN someone tells me EXACTLY what the problem is and WHAT they want done to 'fix' it. The normal gripe of 'I don't like it, get it fixed' is simply not good enough.
"Do you actually believe the displays are good or not ?"
Having had 12 years experience in Area Radar before joining NATS and then doing some feed work for a year and instruction for a year I do not have a problem with the displays, although I do need to wear my specs, which I didn't at ScOACC or LATCC.
1st Jun 2002, 10:51
Leaving aside the question of whether or not the HSE were even given the correct information (which I understand is disputed) the fact remains that they stated that these fonts were on the limits of acceptability. Hardly a situation which anyone should be prepared to accept in a safety operation, including you people who have the task of sorting it out.
The reason there are regulations is to take away the responsibility or decision on what is acceptable from people who may or may not have varying degress of difficulties, or even motivation for trying to do something about it. How can you possible argue that anything less than above the limits of acceptability is what you must provide and quickly. There are well defined standards in the regulations. Simple.
1st Jun 2002, 13:58
"the fact remains that they stated that these fonts were on the limits of acceptability."
This runs along the lines of being a little bit pregnant. Either you are or you aren't!!! So either they are or they are not and the HSE seems (to me but I'm not perfect by a long way) to be saying that they ARE acceptable. Although they're not happy with the keyboards, mice etc.
1st Jun 2002, 18:30
None of us are perfect. However, the issue seems to be fairly straightforward. HSE have acknowledged that the factual information provided to them by our glorious employer was substantially in error, and is still under review. Consequently, HSE's assessment contained in their report - that the screens are on the limits of acceptability - is quite wrong. The situation is much worse than the report suggests. There is no other conclusion to be reached. "The patient is pregnant".
Let's try again. NATS gave the HSE fundamentally incorrect information. HSE have drawn a conclusion from that information that gives a substantially misleading view of the true state of affairs. The screens are in clear breach of the DSE Regulations.
To use Take3's words, the screens either conform to the regulatory standards or they do not. All you engineers who appear to be so put out by ATCO complaints posted on this forum have a simple solution. Don't ask 300+ users what they would like (because they don't know - they are non-professionals in such matters), just apply the standards that are clearly laid down.
Not too difficult, is it?
2nd Jun 2002, 13:17
You need to read up a bit more on the standards and how they are applied. It is not as clear cut and straight forward as you appear to think. It is dependant on the arc's, font size, viewing distance etc. etc. etc. The information supplied by NATS to HDE is not lies but straight copies of the standards used and the sizes applied some 10-12 years ago.
The 'need' for the ATCO's to view the fonts under prototype is simply so that they can see what fonts are available now (as opposed to 10 years ago). All of the new fonts have some foibles so we (and I mean the backroom staff we) want the operational users input as to what they prefer.
If, by the engineers being put out by the ATCO's complaints, you infer all the backroom staff, then you are incorrect. I personally am not put out, I consider it my job to offer as much help and assistance as I possibly can. What frustrates me is the attitude displayed in here and encountered on the shop floor - "It's broken, fix it!!!" Well, we ask, in what way is it broken and how do you want it fixed? Its a pretty fundamental point and made succinctly by Iron City in his/her earlier post.
2nd Jun 2002, 17:19
"What needs fixing?".... Are you serious? Colectively the end users have been complaining about the FONT SIZES for a long time.
Specifically the OPERATIONAL staff have been complaining about them since they first saw them during OCT. And what EXACTLY was done? Apart from emboldening the fonts.... NOTHING. I REPEAT, NOTHING. ( I still have a copy of the e-mail urging OCT course managers to try to stay away from the subject of fonts and ledgibility)
The fact that these observations don't seem to have got thru the the people with the ability to do anything about it is due solely to who, do you think? Not the operational staff, not the systems people. No, the reality is that another NERC delay was inevitable, had the management had the courage to take the decision to fix the problem there and then.... of course large NERC opening bonuses might have swayed their decision making process, as would another appearance before Ms. Dunwoody.
Now I accept that at some point you have to draw the line and deliver a system at an agreed spec, otherwise you'll just keep adding and adding to it and never deliver. The NERC font spec was NEVER acceptable to the end user, and that should have been taken seriously. It wasn't. Instead a set of standards that it barely complied with (no room for error then) were used. Show me documentation that says otherwise. No? HSE couldn't find any either!
2nd Jun 2002, 19:42
Letter (http://www.observer.co.uk/letters/story/0,6903,726406,00.html) from Richard Everitt.
Also, this article (http://www.observer.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,726008,00.html).
2nd Jun 2002, 20:19
Well, as for Richard's letter:
1) Delays due to staff shortages at NERC are greater than they would have been had we stayed at LATCC . This is because NERC requires more people to run it. Staff shortages will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future. Anybody who tells you different is lying or is ill informed.
A far better option would have been to to stay at LATCC until:
a) we had surplus of staff
b) NERC's obvious failings (Font sizes, refresh rate, SIS, RT, Headsets etc etc etc) were fixed TO THE OPERATIONAL STAFF's liking.
2) The SIS displays are still in the WRONG place (HSE report) and there are NO plans to move them. NATS are merely looking at the "feasability" of moving them, or some other weasel words.
Next up PROSPECT.
I've no idea what they are up to in my name, but if they are indeed going to start agigitating for a rise in the en-route fees I will be very annoyed. I will also say so. If you actually read the full CAA ERG response to NATS application you will see that NATS ain't so hard up. I do not want PROSPECT bailing out NATS in any shape or form. The ONLY way to go is re-nationalisation OR administration ala Railtrack. PPP has now been proven to be crappy idea. Give it up.
3rd Jun 2002, 11:44
I couldn't have put it better myself.
Nogbad the Bad
4th Jun 2002, 08:41
Well put Bex, what a shame that Mr Everitt chooses to listen to those that tell him what he wants to hear.........
But then again, that's NATS Management all over !!!!!!!!!!!!!!