The latest AAIB reports are out, including the PA28/Thruster collision at Barton last summer. I quote from the report:
"The Air Traffic Services Investigation (ATSI) department of the CAA Safety Regulation Group conducted their own investigation into the Flight Information Services aspect of this accident. Their report reached the conclusion that the provision of a FIS at Barton is adequate but the movement rate, together with any increase in operational complexity, should be monitored on a regular basis by the CAA. They recommended that if there were a significant increase of either, an upgrade to a full ATC service should be considered."
Over regimentation and regulation threaten recreational GA as never before. It is my opinion that FIS, never mind ATC, is overkill for Barton; we managed OK without it for years, and IMHO it has added diddly squat to safety or efficiency since it was introduced. In fact, efficiency has suffered dreadfully since the increase in 'ground' radio calls that FIS has generated. Motorists seem to be able to drive around Sainsbury's car park without hitting each other. Is it too much to expect qualified PPLs to see and avoid while taxying without having to have 'big brother' watch over them?
In fact, as this accident demonstrates, FIS not only doesn't help pilots in the air, but it may actually detract from flight safety. The FISO was busy 'controlling' a ground movement (!) and so didn't see this incident developing. A radio operator (like what we used to have) is more likely to have been watching the circuit traffic and perhaps might have been able to radio some separation advice.
The CAA's gut reaction is to consider full ATC at Barton. I'd say get rid of FIS and revert to the A/G system which served Barton perfectly well for years - even when the number of non-radio movements was much higher than it is today.
Any chance of a link to the AAIB report into this collision?
My gut reaction is that ATC, as you say, should not be necessary at a GA field, but it's also not something which would detract from safe and enjoyable flying. Unlike airspace expansion, putting ATC in place at an airfield does not reduce the airspace available to us, or restrict the way in which we can use the airspace, so I don't have a problem with it. And I'm going to look out the window regardless of who I'm talking to.
(The last time I flew from Fairoaks, which has AFIS, the AFISO was very helpful in assisting me with spotting some traffic in the circuit, which he was not required to do. But he failed to mention a commuter aircraft being pushed back by a tug directly in front of me, at night, when I was taxying back - I feel he should have instructed me to hold until the tug was clear, but because I was looking out the window I stopped anyway, and proceeded when clear, so there was no danger. Just one example of how controllers can help whether they're required to or not, and don't necessarilly detract from safety even when they don't spot something they should. Obviously if the incident report in the case you mention describes a different situation, I may revise my opinion - especially since I've never been to Barton.)
One of the attractions of grass roots flying is that pilots are responsible for their actions and don't want/need nannying. Pilots who aren't happy with that have loads of 'controlled' fields to fly from.
ATC is entirely appropriate for commercial, all-weather flying. At small felds like Barton it would kill the field's 'character', cripple the movement rate, make mega circuits mandatory iinstead of a crime (itself a safety issue), and spell the end for non-radio flying.
I've flown out of Barton once or twice, along with some much busier AFIS airfields such as Popham rather more. I can't say I agree with SRG's conclusion. If a pilot was unable to make a timely finals call that was due to too much RT chatter and there may be a local RT discipline problem rather than not enough ATC.
I do agree totally with AAIB's conclusions about overtaking however, they are not supposed to criticise in their reports, but that comment is pretty close to it.
One point not made in the report, but I'd note reading the report and having flown a few hours in both types is that a PA28 has very poor visibility forward and down, and a Thruster has very poor visibility upwards and behind. I know it requires "thinking out of the box" a little, but it never harms to be aware of the characteristics of the aircraft around you in the visual circuit- something that looks also to have been lacking here.
Genghis, I think you may have hit the nail on the head there, but I must be careful what I say. I was in the air that day, albeit arriving at Barton some 20 minutes or so after the accident.
I wasn't asked for any opinions or facts, but then I wasn't in the immediate vicinity at the time therefore I had none on the face of it to give. All I know is that it was a weekday afternoon around 4pm, and that is not a particularly busy time for Barton. The only "busy" - ness I could think of in those circumstances would be chat to ground traffic. IMHO the remedy would lie less in applying heavier controls on ATC services and more in ensuring that appropriate & correct radio use is adhered to.
Unfortunately in these circumstances (and again only in my lay opinion as a user of the airfield) any accident investigation cannot fully use subjective evidence or background information, which, if understood, might contribute to prevention of similar situations developing. It's rare that any accident is attributable entirely to one cause - I'm sure that this is the case here.
IMHO it's the lack of regulation that SRG has over FISOs can make them a liability. I know nothing of Barton, but can give examples of South East Aerodromes where FISOs give ATC clearances and are generally a liability. SRG want stronger controls over them and over A/G stations (which they have no regulation over). AFIS is a good system I think, but pilots have absolute responsibility for their actions and what they do. In the air a FISO can give a FIS and ask for a pilot's intentions. They can't ask you to join in a particular way, they can't give you any clearance at all. It's all down to the PIC.
However, a good FISO ie Fairoaks will give you all the information you need to make a good decision. This info only backs up what you see and assess with your own eyes.
I suppose I ought to post this under some form of pseudonym, but one of the simple pleasures of my type of flying has long been calling: "QSY to en-route frequency" to the FISO, A/G person or whoever at the airfield just visted—and, after any acknowledgement, turning the radio off.
The Old Man and I used to cackle like schoolboys on doing this, but the real pleasure was in looking after our own selves as pilots. Of course, we would—and did, once—turn the Icom back on if there was some kind of emergency, but a sharp lookout and the ability to land in almost any field were our real margin of safety.
For fair-weather VFR, at best the radio is a mild stress. At worst, as Shaggy Sheep Driver suggests, it can be a genuine hazard to both pilot concentration and basic airmanship. Or am I out of step with the times?
Phillip - I think it's a very "romantic" way to go about ones flying. I wouldn't do it myself but I wouldn't have any issues with anyone doing it in Open FIR.
I do think liscenced aerodromes should have some for of ATS and that it should be well regulated. Just because an AFIS is less complex than an ATCS doesn't mean it should be regulated any less. If ATS staff are there then at least a bad t/o landing will guarantee someone is about to call the emergency services.
Places like Lydd scare me though. Clearing me immediate t/o, telling me to orbit in the circuit etc etc..
Does Lydd Radio still have delusions of being Heathrow Director, then?
I've not visited therefor several years because I experienced the A/G operator 'controlling' on several occasions, including an on-air bo!!ocking for not following the instructions that he shouldn't have given in the first place
AFIS is a good system I think, but pilots have absolute responsibility for their actions and what they do. In the air a FISO can give a FIS and ask for a pilot's intentions. They can't ask you to join in a particular way, they can't give you any clearance at all. It's all down to the PIC.
Without wanting to get into an arguement about CAP413 et al. (I know what it says), I see nothing wrong with a FISO asking me to join in a particular way (or asking anything else) - I can always say no, after all. They've presumably got a reason to ask (maybe they have a student on first solo and my 10-mile airliner straight-in would make him have to orbit on base?), and if it doesn't cause problems for me then why not?
Telling me is, of course, a different matter (and would tempt me to reply "negative, Flight Information Service only" ).
The more I think about FIS the more I wonder what it's for. To train future ATCOs perhaps?
The only effect it has on Barton traffic as far as I can see is to needlessly increase the number of ground radio calls - few if any of which achieve anything - at the expense of bandwidth left on 122.7 for important circuit calls.
I landed at Barton about 15 minutes before the unfortunate accident occured. How is the injured student pilot?
I was still annoyed with the AFISO on duty but as we pushed the a/c into the hangar the collision occured. Had it not I had made up my mind to speak to him in the presence of the CFI.
In my opinion borne out of several exchanges over a period of time this particular individual uses inappropriate phraseology over the r/t. At best its a distraction, at worst a safety issue due to long and irrelevant transmissions.
The other AFISO's are generally OK and some based PPL's could do with thinking before pressing the button too.
I fly to relax and escape from earthbound tribulations. I get enough proper ATC in the day job so would also vote against any extension to the "service"
One underlying problem is that Barton serves too large a catchment area so has more based a/c than it should per capita.
Another is that as costs rise more pilots content themselves with shorter local flights. All this adds up to a busy circuit. Add in a verbous individual in the tower and one has the recipe for disaster.
Sir George Cayley
The air is a navigable ocean that laps at everyones door
I would also oppose the extension of ATC to small GA fields, and am not persuaded that FIS is all that useful unless there is something complicated about the ground layout or unusual stuff goes on in or near the ATZ (Duxford seems to me an example of a place where FIS works well).
I would worry about ATC making some pilots over dependent on being told what to do and less alert to their own safety and that of others. There are already some GA pilots (a sizeable minority?) who seem over reliant on ATC and on r/t generally. Not so long ago at Waltham (a place where, as has been observed before, the basic, correct a/g service and the generally adopted habit of looking out of the window produces a busy but safe environment with little radio chatter), I and other aircraft were gently troubled by an aircraft departing for Booker who wanted a clearance to blow his nose or stick his finger in his ear (he appeared to have his finger stuck somewhere else, having been cleared for that from birth).
This keen reader of CAP 413 eventually showed some initiative: he decided all by himself that it would be a good idea to line up and then sit motionless on the runway waiting for a take off clearance. Admittedly, he was a particularly ATC-dependent example of the species, all he did was cause minor inconvenience to a few others (in fact I sort of appreciated the go-around practice as I hadn't been flying much lately), and, once airborne, he may have been a hotshot stick and rudder honcho who could fly rings round me, but his antics did not inspire confidence in his airmanship, and would have been less amusing if someone had needed that runway in a hurry.
As I said, this was a particularly bad example of ATC dependence, but I would worry about this sort of thing spreading if more and more of us train and habitually fly only under ATC.
I would worry about ATC making some pilots over dependent on being told what to do and less alert to their own safety and that of others. There are already some GA pilots (a sizeable minority?) who seem over reliant on ATC and on r/t generally.
A very good point, FNG, and it's definatly getting worse at Barton. IMHO the change to FIS has accelerated the trend.
One of the great attractions of flying for me is the freedom coupled with it being one of the few areas of modern life where you make your own decisions and enjoy or suffer the consequences.
Why are so many newer recreational PPLs happy to be 'nannied' by ATC, and seemingly always looking for approval from the man in the tower? Is recreational GA becoming less a fascinatiing and 'stretching' hobby, and more a training ground for the air transport industry?
Being more specific, could I propose a few bits of unnecessary verbage that could get happily chopped out of A/G or AFIS conversations:-
- "call finals", why is an instruction being given for a standard practice?
- "say point of departure", they'll know when you sign in and it's scarcely relevant just at the moment.
- "say Captain's name", ditto - you've signed out or are about to sign in after you'velanded.
- "Please avoid noise sensitive areas", they are in Pooleys, I also phoned for a briefing, I'm a responsible aviator, I wouldn't do otherwise.
I’ve been flying from Barton for over 10 years now, so I think I can add something to the argument. It is a bit busier now than it was a few years ago – but not that much. Don’t listen to the experts who quote the number of movements – they are now counted in a different way. Over the last couple of years the radio is busier – something to do with the ASISO service?? I am now finding it increasingly difficult to get a radio call in – not because of other aircraft, but because of useless AFISO information. - good God – they gave me a wheels down time the other day!!!! I personally don’t think this helps the pilots or airfield safety. There seems to be a move at Barton to constantly upgrade the radio service and the fire service – not because it is needed, but because we seem to be taken over by frustrated ATC officers and firemen. The “Heathrow Boys” and “Toy town fire men”. I don’t mind these guys having a hobby – but not at my cost or the expense of my safety. Part of the this incident may be put down to playing “Heathrow” in the tower by shuffling strips and entering movements into the computer when he should have been operating the radio and looking out the window. However, there were only two aircraft in the circuit, so you can’t blame it on being busy. (although part of the solution seems to be additional AFISO in the tower at busy periods) This type of accident will happen. The way to prevent it is not to take control from the pilot, but to make him better at controlling situations and being more aware of what’s going on around him. I would feel safer with a Unicom than an ATC. Gerry
Being involved at Barton for some 9 years myself, I can say that movements have increased some 25% since 1993. Movement figures are recorded in the exact same way to maintain consistency. We have similar movement rates now to other similarly sized airfields with FIS. In fact, we equal or exceed movement numbers at some larger commercial airfields.
I agree with Gerry Atrick that there are sometimes some unnecessary calls made, but I also feel that a lot of pilots also should brush up on R/T discipline. Is it really necessary to read back a request to 'report downwind' with 'report downwind G-AB' when 'wilco G-AB' will do, or to read back the wind on final or when departing. Its amazing the number of pilots who do. If you've only been for a local flight, do you really need to waffle on about your life history. Why not a quick call; 'G-AB horwich 2000ft inbound request airfield information'
With regard to the particular incident, there are a number of factors which are not included in the report, but which could have played a part, though I would not wish to discuss here. Too often though I feel the knee jerk reaction of some pilots to an incident like this is to blame the regulation, when they should really be looking at the wider picture. Everyone has their own part to play when flying, the FISO is just one part of the jigsaw.
Prior to the incident there were already a number of steps in place or being moved towards to releave the workload on the FISO. The primary duty of looking out of the window was and still is the most important aspect above all else. Other duties such as answering telephone calls, or logging movements are always put second place. Prior to the introduction of FIS, there were a much higher number of incidents relating to conflicts in the circuit when under a/g only and especially with incorrect phraseology being used and applied incorrectly.
There are issues I believe with FIS in general as the service stands, and these have been brought up with SRG on several occasions. There are still improvements which can be made to the service, and we are constantly striving to ensure that this happens to improve safety, which includes improved and more comprehensive training for new FISOs. Sir George Cayley mentions about the individual FISO concerned. Perhaps any faults in the service provided at any time can be ironeed out if people actually approached the managers to discuss it, rather than holding it back for 'clubhouse gossip' instead, which does nothing to help improve safety.
Referring to the “Toy town fire men”, perhaps I could draw attention to CAP699, which is the basis for most of the changes which have occured recently. This is a new document which we are required to comply with for licencing requirements for the airfield. The changes in my view provide a much more professional attitude towards the service provision, which has resulted in a much more efficient team for almost no additional expense. And may I point out that for may of the staff at Barton, it is not jsut a 'hobby' but is also a livelyhood.
At the risk of being accused of being negative, I totally agree with Philip Whiteman. Turn the radio off, leave it off and make your own decisions. Even in the 21st century, it is still possible to fly all day around most of the UK without using a radio, quite safely. Here in North Uist, it's compulsory!