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Heathrow separation

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Heathrow separation

Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:28
  #21 (permalink)  
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Not having flown into Heathrow for many years, I don't want to comment on the subject.

I simply want to say that I do approve of how the article is written, it seems well researched and the writer seems to have dug into the subject, without the usual lot of mistakes. Of course it raises some emotions, otherwise it probably would not be worth reporting it, would it?

I would give a "well done" to Shoey...

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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:33
  #22 (permalink)  
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zkdli, why are you, someone who seems to post a fair bit about ATC issues from an apparently informed viewpoint, asking shoey, a journalist, for a definition of an airprox?

... and Roffa, why shouldn't 'Andrew' be able to enjoy a new life for himself and his family in retirement? The only people beyond his usual social circle who can identify him are the small group of people like you he worked with. Is that likely to be a problem he hasn't weighed?

I too would say well done to Mr Shoesmith.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:40
  #23 (permalink)  
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an awful lot of presumption in your first post!!

NATS have, in my personal opinion, consistently accepted more traffic movements in the London area than can reasonably be handled.

As a controller in the LTMA, I strongly disagree. We have several layers of actions that can be taken before it gets to that stage, it is busy but not to a dangerous extent.

NATS is leading the way in initiatives to make things even safer (notice I say even safer)... NATS has one of the best safety records of any ANSP, despite being responsible for some of the most complex and busy airspace in the world and some of the busiest airports.

By the way, I am not some management lackey when I say the above... far from it, but as a professional with high standards working with a bunch of people with the same mindset, it really gets on my nerves when someone 'presumes' to know better when in fact they do not.

So, the incident that has been highlighted... the controller - a human - made an error of judgement... by all accounts a fairly bad lapse, yet he still did not have an airprox.

NATS investigated, as it always does, and corrective action has taken place. Should be end of 'non story'.
The only other thing to do is have more ATC staff and reduce their workload and time at the screen. Again, this won't happen and because of the commercial pressures. Which ... is where the problem started!
A very poor understanding of how ATC works with that statement I'm afraid. There all hard and fast rules as to how long a controller may work at a particular position. The time that people are most susceptible to making mistakes are when they first take over a position... you need to get a feel for the traffic... yet you, in your wisdom, are advocating that what we in fact do is increase the number of times we do this!!!

Controllers work for longer (still within the timeframe) when it is busy, as more sectors are open. However there are many studies which prove that the human brain is less likely to screw up when it is stimulated i.e. busy, but not too busy... certainly not quiet!

Now, where's the story?

Last edited by anotherthing; 20th Mar 2008 at 19:50.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:42
  #24 (permalink)  
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Well said that man.

Or woman, never met you...

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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:48
  #25 (permalink)  
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Man, last time I checked... but cant see past my belly nowadays
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:49
  #26 (permalink)  
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Or woman
Fear it if you are!
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:54
  #27 (permalink)  
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This loss of separation implies that it is the controller(s) sole fault. Yet many incidents of reduced separation originate from pilots not responding quickly enough to speed reductions, heading changes and altitude changes. Air traffic control is a service to pilots - the ultimate responsibility for the safety of each individual aircraft belongs to the Captain. If he or she deems the separation to be unsatisfactory, then he/she should immediately seek alternative action.
This is one incident in thousands of routine approaches in a terminal area serving very busy international airports. Don't sensationalise it -and why did "Andrew" not voice his concerns as an active controller?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 19:55
  #28 (permalink)  
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I don't want to debate the nitty gritty here but I find it very telling that the LTMA/LL controllers on this thread are quick to step to the defence of the Heathrow operation whereas many of the posters who think it's a great piece of investigative journalism know very little about the subject.

Is Mr Shoesmith a good thing for PPRuNe?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:08
  #29 (permalink)  
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leaving aside Del Prado's comments -- an airprox, so far as i understand it from the CAA (and yes, I did check) is any incident where a pilot, controller etc believes there was a risk of an accident. in journalese "a near miss". a LOS = MOR = a near, near miss.
The CAA also told me that airproxes are down to the relevant professional's judgement. They told me there had been no airproxes in, i think, 2006.
But given a rising trend in LOS's, is it unreasonable to think that, unless checked, more serious incidents (even airproxes) could arise?
MORs, as the name implies, are legally required.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:11
  #30 (permalink)  

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s and t,

... and Roffa, why shouldn't 'Andrew' be able to enjoy a new life for himself and his family in retirement? The only people beyond his usual social circle who can identify him are the small group of people like you he worked with. Is that likely to be a problem he hasn't weighed?
Well, not the best way to start off a quiet retirement but no, no problem bar one of considerable lost respect for the way he has taken this to the media after no doubt feeling he was ignored (this was his favourite subject) whilst working for NATS... but the rest of us can't all be wrong can we?

I also consider him saying the (safety) culture is errant as very insulting and some of the commentary on the BBC video inaccurate.

Last edited by Roffa; 20th Mar 2008 at 20:30.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:18
  #31 (permalink)  
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Heathrow 16 years. Best controllers and ATC staff in the world.


Nuff said.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:22
  #32 (permalink)  
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Aircraft/Controller comms use a method whose basic concept dates back to the 2nd World War. The separation minima discussed here date back several generations of Radar technology ago. I amazes me that whilst many technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds, we are incredibly conservative in our approach to sequencing inbound and outbound aircraft. By now we should have in place an entirely automatic system where pilots and controllers perform an overview and monitoring function and separation is based upon physical constraints such as wake vortex and runway occupancy times, not the limitations of 1950's Radar technology and 1940's radio telephony. We finally managed to get vertical separation across the Atlantic and other non-Radar areas halved. Isn't it about time that we looked at separation in areas with the benefit of both Radar and GPS reporting?

Those of you who have had an opportunity to look at the trackkeeping accuracy achievable by aircraft during the recent P-RNAV trials will I hope be impressed by how accurate the tracks are - a single line on the plot covers dozens of flights.

We're prepared to invest billions (choose your own major currency) in new aircraft design but aren't prepared to invest in the technology to maintain and improve the safe, orderly and expeditious movement of these aircraft.

Someone mentioned CDAs (Continuous Descent Arrivals). The Holy Grail for these is selection of flight idle at top of descent, the next time the power is required is to taxy off the runway - all achievable but many years away, it seems.

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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:25
  #33 (permalink)  
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I have lots of respect for the way you are up front on PPRuNe... I have said so on other threads before.

However, there is a robust system in place when things go awry or even when a controller displays a poor controlling technique. We have a good series of checking systems in place, from LCE upwards. Every incident, whether it is an airprox or not, gets investigated.

I'm all for an open upfront system... we have one of the best, if not the best in the world right here in the UK. What peeves my colleagues and I is the fact that a controller who was involved in the writing of this report at the request of NATS decides to pi all over his former colleagues.

Thats what is annoying.. we are talking about professionalism and judgement here in respect of the controllers actions... two things sadly sadly lacking in 'Andrews' actions.

Autothrottle - I think my colleagues on the area side of TC might take you to task for that statement!! Suffice to say that NATS and UK controllers in general are very professional and very well regulated.

And LTMA area(TC) controllers are the best of the best
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:35
  #34 (permalink)  
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Question for 'TheOddOne' in post 32.
When there is WX, almost a daily occurance, or so it seems, how do aircraft on P-RNAV routes avoid the clouds?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:41
  #35 (permalink)  
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Yes Roffa you can be wrong. NATS ATCOs are a minority group and you are not self regulating. I know you are individually some great guys in achieving things that keep the people under your surveillance safe, but that's not enough. The worrying thing is that as a company you are excrutiatingly exposed on a formalised regular basis to external commercial pressures via the same organisation which is supposed to be your safety regulator. I do not understand how ERG ('E' is for Economic) and SRG can protect the public interest whilst this blatant conflict is allowed to continue. You are not in a war zone, so you should not be so stretched on a regular basis.

The PPP arrangement was supposed to obviate the need for a decade of taxpayer investment at the rate of 100M+ per year. Instead I read that after much bigger numbers were supposed to have been injected, that half your company was effectively 'sold' for a piffling 50M to the Airline Group (a consortium of airlines including Virgin, BA and Easyjet) and your main performance targets (subject to mulyi-million pound penalties) are measured in seconds (not even minutes) of delay. Need I remind you that your company almost went bust in 2002 and since then you have been restructured, retargeted, prices recapped, loans refinanced, and goodness knows what else.

Any reader of the public documents and transcripts might be forgiven for concluding that as a company you might be overstretched, undermanned and underfunded for the capital and people investments required to make you state of the art.

Or am I wrong?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:49
  #36 (permalink)  
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That's the reason we have human pilots, Shoey.

The last line of defence. After the automatics and the computers have had their say, the experienced pilot is the one (mercifully two) on the flight deck who have the ultimate sanction to fly the aircraft as he(she) sees fit to perform their ultimate duty - to preserve the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.

Pilots who've been doing this job for long enough maintain a mental model of the world around them. Even when you can't see the other traffic in cloud, a pilot builds a picture of his environment by listening to the radio traffic in a sort of 'pseudo lookout' if you will.

This situational awareness has saved many lives in the past. For example the acute awareness of a Lufthansa pilot at Milan Linate in 2001 made one of the soundest decisions in this business in a generation. In thick fog, he refused a take-off clearance because he was not convinced the previous aircraft was airborne - a decision that saved hundreds of lives, and came from thinking outside of his routine 'box'.

How fortunate we are that this industry is full of professionals like him? Pilots and controllers too, who are capable of perceiving threat when all of the clever trickery of technology, and the commercial imperative says that there is none.

Your quest, Mr Shoey, should be to expose the people who would abandon these expensive professionals and replace them with cheap new-hire for their own selfish gain. Now that IS an accident waiting to happen.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 20:50
  #37 (permalink)  
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Well the discussion was about Heathrow!

Seriously the ATCO's in the UK are widely aknowledged as THE BEST...Area TC Guys and Gals included!!!!!!!
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:02
  #38 (permalink)  
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Thank you shoey for your answer.
How can you say the following in your post? "None were airproxes -- although a couple were very borderline cases."

Did you interview all the controllers or pilots involved to allow you to make that statement? The definition is - "a situation in which, in the opinion of the pilot or a controller, the distance and relative positions and speeds have been such that the safety of the aircraft has been or may have been compromised."

The only people who can decide if an incident is an AIRPROX are the pilots and/or the controllers involved at the time of the incident. "Andrew" does not have a right to make that call unless he was talking about an incident that he was involved in.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:08
  #39 (permalink)  

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s and t,

Any reader of the public documents and transcripts might be forgiven for concluding that as a company you might be overstretched, undermanned and underfunded for the capital and people investments required to make you state of the art.

Or am I wrong?
I'm not going to get in to a prolonged debate with you (again), suffice to say from someone on the inside in my opinion yes, you are wrong.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:16
  #40 (permalink)  
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Would operating in 'mixed mode' (which I understand is occasionally done anyway) and/or having a third runway ease this 'problem' that 'Andrew' has raised?

Any ATCOs care to comment...?

I'm 'just' a PPL but I have had the privilege to sit in with one of the Heathrow Directors in TC at Swanwick for a morning and I was very impressed.
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