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Combined radar and tower

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Combined radar and tower

Old 16th Feb 2014, 17:36
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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what has now changed to enable it to be done safely.
Perhaps NATS NSL thinks it can get it past the union against the background of a lost contract, and the hard negotiation they will face as a result when the other contracts come up for renewal.
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Old 16th Feb 2014, 19:12
  #22 (permalink)  
 
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LookingForAJob

Can you suggest what has now changed (other than the need to cut costs ie NOT ATC safety related) that overcomes what, for 50 years or so, was ABSOLUTELY forbidden ?
&, if this practice is now legal, WHY it is now so; &, why could we not have done it before ?
Either we were doing something (or not doing it) for so many years for absolutely NO reason; or, we are now doing it despite very good reasons (which haven't changed) for not having done it in the past. Which is correct ?
It seems to me that you have a touching faith in the professionalism & probity of the Regulators/Administrators. I hope that I am not doing you a misservice !
What is the answer ?
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Old 16th Feb 2014, 19:43
  #23 (permalink)  
 
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Its just my opinion that its not a good idea.
There are so many variables that could make it safe or not.
Unfortunately modern NATS is different to days when one minute you've got your feet up, bored and wondering who's going to make a brew! And then on the other hand saying to the boss " you better call up the troops, we will need them tonight. I've got 1 inbound due in half an hour".
There won't be any extra staff. If a safety case is proven by the regulator and it gets implemented into the contract with the airport authority the staff won't be there.
All this will do is add to the stress of frontline ATCO's, decrease ATSA numbers (further) and possibly decrease the service to the airliners, but alas, we won't be bored or suffer any tedious night duties!
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Old 16th Feb 2014, 20:38
  #24 (permalink)  
 
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Answer me this. What is the difference between doing approach procedural and tower combined and approach radar with tower combined? Answer- one has been legal for many decades the other has not? Why not? What's the difference? IMHO approach procedural requires far more concentration than approach radar (I've done both for many years) so I would far rather (with appropriate restrictions/conditions) do a bit of approach radar in the tower than have to do full on procedural because of some outdated rule that nova body can quite remember why was introduced.

The reason this has come up now is because NATS dispensed with its ability to do approach procedural many years ago (rightly or wrongly) and so this is its only real option...and I'll lay money no non-NATS units get approval to do it.
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Old 16th Feb 2014, 20:48
  #25 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Plain Crazy
IMHO approach procedural requires far more concentration than approach radar (I've done both for many years) so I would far rather (with appropriate restrictions/conditions) do a bit of approach radar in the tower than have to do full on procedural
Especially QGHs combined with ADC...
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Old 16th Feb 2014, 20:56
  #26 (permalink)  
 
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This is shortly to start trials at PH too. I'll reserve judgement...
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 10:48
  #27 (permalink)  
 
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Trial just started at EGNT too I believe....
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 12:04
  #28 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by kcockayne
Can you suggest what has now changed (other than the need to cut costs ie NOT ATC safety related) that overcomes what, for 50 years or so, was ABSOLUTELY forbidden ?
&, if this practice is now legal, WHY it is now so; &, why could we not have done it before ?
Either we were doing something (or not doing it) for so many years for absolutely NO reason; or, we are now doing it despite very good reasons (which haven't changed) for not having done it in the past. Which is correct ?
It seems to me that you have a touching faith in the professionalism & probity of the Regulators/Administrators. I hope that I am not doing you a misservice !
What is the answer ?
I am equally interested to know what has changed in the rules to allow radar control to be combined with aerodrome.

You are right that it was considered to be an absolute taboo by the UK CAA for as long as I suspect anyone can recall. But just because the CAA wouldn't or won't consider something doesn't automatically mean that the decision is right or that the taboo is wrong - it just means that the CAA policy was that that was the way it should be. And, like it or not, that's one of the things that the CAA is there for.

I can recall when approach radar controllers were limited to working (an arbitrary) 40 miles from the ATZ boundary - then, overnight, if you could show the CAA that your unit could do it safely, it would be approved. Why could it not be done before? Because those were the rules.

And you are perfectly right to question whether we have (or have not) been doing something for NO reason. But things do change - although we may not notice them doing so, rather like the proverbial frog in the saucepan of water. I gave the example of having to do 'manual' met obs and record the ATIS message - it all took time but at many, if not most, units these days it is much quicker.

I'll offer another, more pertinent example. When I were but a lad I did approach radar with an ACR430, and an old one at that. It needed to hear gentle whispered words before it would perform, and you needed to keep an eye on the control box to make sure that both channels stayed tuned and, of course, you could only see the display in a semi-darkened room. There is no way that I would expect that sort of set up to be combined with aerodrome control. But using the nice reliable colour TV type radars that are available today (oh, and by the way, when I say colour, I mean more than orange and black) is conceivable to me. Does this difference make it safe? Well, nothing is absolutely safe but I think it could be adequately safe in the right environment.

And what about night VFR? Was it right or wrong to not permit it for so many years in the UK while in other countries it was commonplace? Does the change in rules make any difference at all?

And then there's the regulator - perhaps my faith in the CAA is misplaced. It's a long time since I have had anything to do with the CAA and ATS regulators. In the old days the Inspectors and their decisions were variable but the fallback was the natural conservatism of the whole organisation (which I guess is also the root of your comments). What I have seen of the more recent additions does not inspire a great deal of confidence, I admit. And the CAA is no longer setting the rules - despite their dogged head in the sand attitude, the days of the UK rule book are numbered. Personally, I think this is a shame - the UK rules are not perfect but in many areas represent refinements to the international standards that have evolved over time to fill the gaps in those international rules. All of that hard-won refinement, the reasons for which are sometimes lost in the mists of time, will go out of the window as EASA standardises on the lowest common denominator. And the Inspectors will be inspected (a dose of their own medicine?) in order to ensure they are applying the Koln policy. But on the other hand, maybe there will be better evaluation of safety arguments for doing things like radar in the tower so that it only gets approved where it can be done safely.

@WorkInProgress - I know the world is not as comfy as it used to be in the old Civil Service NATS (and, indeed, in other ANSPs). Things do change, and I suspect everyone in the ATC business does more these days than they used. But I am simply offering the view that - from the safety perspective - there is no fundamental reason for not doing things that are different if they are shown to be safe enough.
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 12:16
  #29 (permalink)  
StandupfortheUlstermen
 
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You can cut your night manning by 50%.


Ha ha ha, thanks Nimmer! Will I, as part of the watch management team, be exempt from being sliced in half or do I get to choose which of my colleagues becomes sushi?!


Just one serious but obviously hypothetical question, at unit X where there are currently three ATCOs on night duty, we'll assume this new plan reduces staffing by 33% thus leaving two on duty. What happens if or when one of the two remaining staff declares unfit for duty and the other ATCO, who would previously have been on nights, has already been re-allocated to other operational duties? How would that be covered? Interesting question don't you think?
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 13:36
  #30 (permalink)  
 
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Sorry if I appear to be 'stooping low' with this, but I wonder if the managers, accountants and, (dare I say), 'union reps', who have obviously given their endorsement to these cost-saving procedures have forgotten that:-

The 2 most tragic mid-air collisions in European airspace in the last 40 years were, in part, attributable to persons not sitting in seats that should have been occupied.
Also, the loss of Comair 1591, at Lexington, might have been prevented had eyeballs been looking though the VCR windows.

No offence intended to anyone. Stay safe and keep a sharp lookout.
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 13:40
  #31 (permalink)  
 
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In theory I would assume it can be covered by moving somebody from the afternoon, and then probably give them a day of TOIL to be covered with overtime.

In practice, with the reductions in staffing that seem to be going all over the country, I think (opinion, not fact) that airports will start to close regularly at nights due to staff shortages if staffing is cut much more.
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 15:02
  #32 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by ZOOKER
Sorry if I appear to be 'stooping low' with this....
I don't know if it's stooping low but it's certainly important to learn from the past. But equally - and I don't intend this as a criticism - we need to look more closely at the events and the environment to understand if they're relevant to the current discussion.

The mid-air collisions that you are thinking of are, presumably, Überlingen and Zagreb. As with all accidents there are many contributory factors but in the case of Überlingen I believe the staffing issues related to routine disregard of the management instructions (which the management knew about) and, in particular, the unauthorised combining or two working positions to allow one controller to take a break instead of staffing the CWP. The Zagreb case, as I understand it, was rather different and was largely what we would probably call an overload today, compounded by a 'system' that was stretched close to breaking point at times for reasons way beyond anything that the controllers could control (if you see what I mean). And almost 40 years on, we are in a completely different technical environment and I wonder if we can relate that situation to the UK today - but that's not to say we should consider it.

The Lexington accident is perhaps more easily related to doing approach radar from the tower. If we put to one side workload issues, the main problem that I can see of doing radar from the tower is that it takes eyes away from the windows....but no tower controller is always looking at everything he or she can see out of the windows. We prioritise our attention to the the things that matter. Do we watch the runway (assuming we only have one) all the time in case there's an incursion of some sort? No, in reality we'll probably be tied up with some other part of the airfield - if we're lucky - or looking at one of the numerous display screens that are typical today and give the runway a quick visual check before clearing an aircraft to use it (and I heard some controllers say they don't have time to do that).

On a big airport, even in good visibility, many areas of interest are so far away that it is possible to see there's an aircraft out there where you expect but it's difficult to tell much more, like which way it's pointing for example. And at night it's that much harder. So - again, if we're lucky - we get an A-SMGCS which is another screen to look at inside the tower....but we don't complain about that one.

Granted that staffing was a factor in the Lexington accident but the point I'm trying to make is that even with full staffing, you can't guarantee that the controller will be looking at that really important thing when it matters.
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 16:44
  #33 (permalink)  
StandupfortheUlstermen
 
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"In theory I would assume it can be covered by moving somebody from the afternoon, and then probably give them a day of TOIL to be covered with overtime."


Which of course assumes that the person calls in sick prior to the afternoon shift starting and that someone is willing to change shifts at short notice. Good luck with that one!
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Old 17th Feb 2014, 18:41
  #34 (permalink)  
 
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If the rostered person calls in sick and a replacement can't be found then close the airfield," simples". It's the price the consumer sometimes has to pay when when they want something done on the cheap. The train companies cancel trains at the drop of a hat and people have to put up with it. It's UKPLC 2014, accept it and get on with it
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 08:30
  #35 (permalink)  
 
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Is the Radar in the Tower procedure actually requiring the ATCO to vector the inbound or allowing the aircraft to manually position onto the ILS using a RNAV procedure and therefore the ATCO performing a monitoring role only?
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 10:17
  #36 (permalink)  
 
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@standardnoise:
That is exactly why I think we will start seeing airfield closures at a regular basis if this is brought in across the board and staffing subsequently cut.

@obwan
I don't have a problem with it, but once again I think that the second we start regulating traffic or closing airfields due to staffing it's not the airfield that will get the bad publicity, it's the ATCOs! Which means we may end up having to adapt a new procedure we don't want, cut staffing even more (which we don't want), the reasoning being the reduction in service. When the service then has to eb reduced (like we said) we will still take the blame, it's no-win situation for the ATCOs if you ask me!

@250kts
As far as I know it's standard radar vectoring.
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 10:19
  #37 (permalink)  
 
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Interesting comment knots, (greetings by the way, we haven't spoken for ages).
The next question is obviously in the 'monitoring role', what ATC service is the aircraft receiving, (with the terrain-clearance issues,), and also, what would be the tower controller's responsibility if unknown conflicting traffic, (say a night-time VFR nav-ex gone pear-shaped), was observed on the ATM/radar/situation display?
Lots of Interesting 'oral-board' questions ahead.
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 13:30
  #38 (permalink)  
 
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As far as I know it's standard radar vectoring.
So an inbound could be transferred,say, 30 miles out and the tower controller does the vectoring?? Not sure this would get through a safety case. What happens at Belfast where the trial has already taken place? How could the tower controller handle a stack should there be bad weather or inbound delays?

Ultimately if it comes in it's the airport operator who takes the risk on the airfield closing should there be sickness.

Hello Zooker
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 17:40
  #39 (permalink)  
 
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@250kts,

Exactly the point I was making earlier when I was told by 'lookingforajob' that we should be careful about "waving the safety flag"! I think there is genuine safety concern with this one, whether or not it is 'just a gut feeling or not'.
I would not be happy at my unit doing radar in the tower ( out to 40nm ), providing an aerodrome control service and doing met observations at the same time in LVP conditions with holding traffic. Obviously the met would get neglected, resulting in calls from the met office!
The whole point of this is 100% a money saving exercise. For ATCO's it means working in a more stressful environment where the swiss cheese holes will line up faster. And for management/bean counters and others who get large bonuses for reducing overheads it means in the long term less staff.
It used to be Safe, Orderly and Expeditious. I'd prefer to keep it that way!!
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Old 18th Feb 2014, 18:15
  #40 (permalink)  
 
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Could someone who is involved in the trials enlighten us about what conditons are imposed and how the potential for being interrupted by vehicles or aircraft on the aerodrome frequency is addressed?

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