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Heathrow separation

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Heathrow separation

Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:16
  #41 (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?
Why would they want to?

I heard a pilot say the other day:

'Provided the IRVR is >125M, the rest of the weather is irrelevant'.

Not strictly true the whole time, but the case for 99% of his ops.

Don't get me started on Low Visibility Procedures (LVP's). Another shocking case of underinvestment and failure by the regulator to grasp new technologies causing chaos every time it gets foggy.

TOO
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:22
  #42 (permalink)  
 
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"andrew"hink

at least we've provoked debate....
just one point about "andrew" -- throughout all of my dealings with him, he has been very quick to praise the skill, professionalism and dedication of his former colleagues.
He doesn't blame individuals for the incidents he wrote up in that 33page report - rather it's the system he thinks has become errant.
in a nutshell, he thinks that expecting atcos to be working to their best possible performance level, at every moment of every shift, is unrealistic and unfair.
One point he mentioned on 5 Live Drive (www.bbc.co.uk/fivelive) about 1705 is the fact that NATS own figures suggest 20% or more of WV pairings are underspaced. that's surely worthy of debate?
IS
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:23
  #43 (permalink)  
 
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I think zkdli has just argued a point which if true would seem to mean you are wrong, Roffa.

In 2008 it should be possible for a third party pilot or controller analyst to exactly replay the scenario using the original data recorded in the state of the art systems. Evidently insufficient data is infact recorded to achieve this. I am sure that revelation surprises people. maybe NATS is short on diskspace too, or is it more problematic than that?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:24
  #44 (permalink)  
 
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TOO, perhaps you could pass on your in-depth knowledge of weather avoidance and aircraft to the pilots who routinely ask or indeed just turn on their own initiative to avoid flying through wx. They are obviously not as switched on as your good self, and it would make my job a lot easier if nobody wanted to avoid anything. 1% of the time, try probably 20% of days on average I'd guess throughout the year, or indeed weeks on end depending on the season.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:30
  #45 (permalink)  
 
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The safety systems in place within NATS have been formulated over years and are continuously under review, not by managers controlling desks but by the coalface workers themselves. ATCOs regularly report themselves if they feel there was a fault or a system that wasn't necessarily working as well as it could.

What this report to me seemed to do was bring into question the professionalism and safety culture which belongs with NATS operational staff. Safety first is a mantra so often repeated, knowing the operational staff I have encountered there is nothing that would get in the way of that. One only has to look at the uproar when Mr Barron made the comment of how ATCOs were more loyal to their licence than to NATS to show just how important we believe that licence is to us and no commercial pressures i doubt will ever change the professional way in which operational staff view safety.

Individuals make errors what a shame that a former colleague feels fit to air those errors to a national broadcaster when any errors will have been dealt with internally anyway. It isn't as if they are brushed under the carpet and ignored.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:51
  #46 (permalink)  
 
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and it would make my job a lot easier if nobody wanted to avoid anything. 1% of the time, try probably 20% of days on average I'd guess throughout the year, or indeed weeks on end depending on the season.
Not Long Now,

I apologise if my post seemed flippant and I do recognise that there are limitations to the automation of the system. I do find the figure of 20% a bit suprising. In a previous life one of my tasks was to liaise with ATC regarding any departures from planned tracks due to weather, so that we could respond to enquiries from the public and passengers, so I do have a little feel for the situation.

The data and presentations that I saw from the P-RNAV trial didn't seem to suggest that weather avoidance was a major stumbling block to the introduction of such a system. The only weather-related issue I recall was to do with out-of-limits w/v.

I still maintain that not nearly enough investment has been made in improvements to procedures through automation both in the TMA and most especially in the treatment of aircraft spacing during periods of low visibility. Please consider how improved automation of railway signalling over the past 150 years has made that system vastly safer. The Docklands Light Railway is entirely automated - no drivers at all and I don't recall having heard of a single signalling-induced accident.

TOO
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:53
  #47 (permalink)  

 
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s and t,

I think zkdli has just argued a point which if true would seem to mean you are wrong, Roffa.

In 2008 it should be possible for a third party pilot or controller analyst to exactly replay the scenario using the original data recorded in the state of the art systems. Evidently insufficient data is infact recorded to achieve this. I am sure that revelation surprises people. maybe NATS is short on diskspace too, or is it more problematic than that?
I don't know which of zkdli's points you are referring to but any "incident" can be replayed, viewed and the analysis started within minutes of its occurrence using more than adequate systems/software that records all relevant (including information downlinked from the aircraft) parameters.

As I said, I'm not getting into circuitous debates with you again. I'll correct anything you get blatantly factually wrong such as the above, but that's all.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:58
  #48 (permalink)  
 
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Vmc? Imc?

No mention here of whether any of these incidents were under VMC or IMC. It makes a difference because under VMC it's the pilot(s) who have the ultimate responsibility for aircraft separation.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 21:59
  #49 (permalink)  
 
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flower, you miss the point.

This isn't about individuals. It is about corporate commercial interests versus safety. And the safety cannot easily be measured because it is notionally a 'very safe system' where predictions of the next bad thing are difficult.

It was a system borne out of years of steady incremental change overseen by what was primarily a safety regulator. Now it is a system in private hands with an economic regulator who wears at least two hats in this scenario, neither of which are noticeably respected in such a low cost driven market environment.

Individually, you long term ATCOs haven't changed with the low cost market except in crude terms of survival of the fittest. You continue to enjoy a defined benefit pension still embedded in the CAA's scheme which costs well in excess of 30% of your salaries, much of which is still 'passed through' to the taxpayer I think for NERL at least, or is it the airlines which pick up the tab - I haven't quite got my head round it - but I can see that AG don't much go a bundle on it! You have good union representation (which is a good thing) but your union is your protector, not your regulator.

The majority of the pilots flying the aircraft in your care now enjoy no such high cost employment benefits, no pensions in many cases, even no union.

So you feel special. You feel loyal to what you perceive essentially to be a good employment package and a great job. You are special. You feel special enough to have the power as a group not to be pushed around. But how do you as a group decide when it is safe to accept erosion of separation standards without conspicuous extra support in terms of technological investment and proper manning and continuation training? Your union is usually the last to respond not the first.

Why is one of the biggest departments in your company called the Human Factors department? There's more of them now than of you operational guys I think? Perhaps they got the human risk down to such a fine art that you dare pit your skill against the next erosion of separation or manning levels on their say so after a questionnaire session or two?

And whose idea was that prop on the rocks outside your new front door at Swanwick? I don't like the look of it

PS Glad to here that replays aren't a problem Roffa That means if you have the data, you don't have to be involved to have a valid hindsight opinion I take it?

Last edited by slip and turn; 20th Mar 2008 at 22:09.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:06
  #50 (permalink)  
 
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Please consider how improved automation of railway signalling over the past 150 years has made that system vastly safer. The Docklands Light Railway is entirely automated - no drivers at all and I don't recall having heard of a single signalling-induced accident.
Trains can stop though, aeroplanes can't.

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
The problem with that is lots of aircraft being at TOD at the same time they can't all do what they want. They have to be streamed and put into a landing order, some might get a continuous idle descent but most won't.

As a controller, for me safety is my primary concern before anything else, I try to be safe at all times, unfortunately i make mistakes occasionally, thats human nature. If something happens that i deem unsafe or could do with improving, i report it. Nats for all its faults actively encourages this, so for "Andrew" to knock this is wrong.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:09
  #51 (permalink)  
 
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S and T

But Nats is a company with one commodity - SAFETY. Yes we have other expertise we can sell but if, as a business, we are to prosper in the future, then everything we do has to be underpinned by safety. If it is not, we will get found out and taken over by some outside ANSP. We have to be safe first, so it makes no sense to begin operating in a generally unsafe fashion most of the time.

In addition safety can be measured, perhaps it is just that you do not have the expertise to do so? Nats employs a large number of specialists to do just this and predict where our target areas should be - and pretty successfully I may say.

So by all means have your say, but please, a bit of fact to back them up next time eh?

P7
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:24
  #52 (permalink)  
 
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Point Seven
I have read enough facts to make my head spin. The word that is conspicuous by its absence in the documented regulation of NATS thesedays is 'safety'.

Pick any document from the CAA website with the word NATS in it and do a word search. Yeah 'safety' and 'safe' do usually get a mention, but the real nitty gritty of what's discussed more often uses other words sometimes much more often than feels healthy, and I am not talking 'the', 'air' or 'traffic' or 'control' or 'service'. Instead you'll find CP2 (the second five years since PPP = 2006-2010), and 'capex' and 'opex' and 'pension' and 'savings' and 'customer' and 'cost' and 'reduction'. I even saw a slide from your HR Director where he depicted NATS as a little tug boat awash, and CAAPS as a bloody great smiling thing following behind on the end of a rope. Not sure if he was making the point that the giant CAAPS was a good thing or a bad thing at that point in the proceedings...

It's true I am no expert on measuring safety, I am more an engineer who was taught to first think of a number and then double it, not think of a number and then think again of a lower one for CP2.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:24
  #53 (permalink)  
 
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Turn and slip,
I am not sure that you have got the important bit about the definition and shoey's comment. The only people who can state categorically that a loss of separation is an AIRPROX are the pilots or controllers invovled in the incident. The replays and investigations can say what happened, why it happened and how it happened BUT it cannot say that the pilot should have reported the incident as an AIRPROX because in the investigator's opinion it was - the defintion is specific in that it is only the pilot or controller at the time of the incident who can say that.

There are numerous instances in aviation, and other industries, where an incident in one circumstance is not considered unsafe but may have been considered completely differently in other circumstances (e.g occurance in VMC, same occurance in IMC - in one the pilots were always visual with the other aircraft - no incident , in the other they were never visual - incident.)
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:24
  #54 (permalink)  
 
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Having just seen the BBC news version - I'll echo those that have said the story has shown a misunderstanding of ATC procedures. LL Approach have operated with a high safety record for years at all three locations of its life, and the vertical and lateral separations used throughout the approach phase are highly efficient WITH SAFETY AS THE PRIORITY. None of us would've done the job day in, day out otherwise.

A shame a 'whistleblower' who now wants "a quiet life" has to part with a shot in this way - and achieves what exactly apart from something towards his 'Warhol quota'? Let's scare the chavs watching the news?

As one senior NATS manager said once (tongue in cheek) reacting to some newspaper report after an AIRMISS/AIRPROX report had made the papers with the inevitable headlines: "...let's face it, all jets ARE seconds from disaster - that's why we're there."
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:35
  #55 (permalink)  
 
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I think you are splitting hairs, zkdli.

What is to be gained by arguing about opinions and individuals?

If the replays are as accurate and accessible as Roffa suggests then there should be standards monitoring which could be completely automated, no humans involved in the initial analysis - just computerised warning reports. If you can obligingly as a company set yourselves official average delay target maxima of 32 seconds per flight, you can sure as hell fine-tune separation minima at a number greater than Andrew's "20 seconds to collision" or something is not right!

But too much of that might wobble pilots and controllers, eh? Everyday having to explain why your automatically analysed incident list is longer than the norm? You'd end up with more paperwork than policemen do!

We all know that a incorrectly tuned movement detector in a car alarm is a nuiscance. So fork out for a good one and tune it properly or ring fence your vehicle with people or hardware so nothing untoward can get near it

I know it isn't easy, but just arguing that the system is the best and it ain't broke is not good.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:44
  #56 (permalink)  

 
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s and t,

I assume you don't know what the acronyms STCA (the first in the world in Terminal Airspace) and SMF relate to.

Someone else can explain
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:54
  #57 (permalink)  
 
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Roffa so you are saying you already have the automated monitoring - well that's good then. The public don't want acronyms. They want assurance that it's all completely under control and that if 20 seconds is the time to collision that an automatic system will in fact have told everyone what to do at least 12 seconds earlier, so it can't be true. I.e they'd like to know that in actual fact the suggestion of 20 secs to collision at closing speeds of 500kts is a figment of someone's over-active imagination. But that didn't happen, and it was 20 secs.

And what did these two fine new tools show in relation to what Andrew so accurately reported?
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 22:59
  #58 (permalink)  

 
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s and t,

NATS' statement on BBC report into claims by anonymous ex-controller

NATS controllers safely handled 240,000 landings at Heathrow last year. We identified 16 incidents where the standard separation was not maintained - none of them were reported as airproxes. There has been only one incident so far this year.

Safety is NATS first priority and we use all the means at our disposal to continue to improve our safety performance. This includes collecting data on all incidents, including these 16, which we analyse for any apparent trends which may help us to improve our standards still further.

In the UK, we have a comprehensive Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme, which provides for independent investigation of serious incidents in UK airspace. Pilots, air traffic controllers and engineers are all required to report in to the MOR scheme.

The review of Heathrow Approach operations is part of our on-going safety improvement process. It looked at a number of incidents, but these were all low-level severity: none of the pilots involved in these incidents believed that their safety had been compromised. We have acted upon the review’s recommendations and kept our regulator fully informed.

Heathrow Approach controllers are not pressurised to deliver continuously maximum landing rate – no ‘pressure’ reports were filed by Heathrow Approach controllers in 2007
Is effectively what they say.

At this point you'll probably say I/we are complacent or something because of my perceived attitude. Fortunately I and my atco and pilot colleagues know we're not and my saying any more than that is probably pointless.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 23:18
  #59 (permalink)  
 
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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No mention here of whether any of these incidents were under VMC or IMC. It makes a difference because under VMC it's the pilot(s) who have the ultimate responsibility for aircraft separation.
Smilin Ed,

We're talking about the UK version of Class 'A' airspace here, where traffic is all IFR. Separation is maintained between aircraft by ATC, whether or not the pilots can see out (OK, there's Special VFR available, but that isn't applicable in the discussion here).

TheOddOne
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 23:28
  #60 (permalink)  
 
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Roffa, you now as well as I do that pilots sit in an aluminium cigar tube with a bank of instruments obscuring most of their view and their awareness is limited to what they get from their instruments and computer and what they hear on the radio or exceptionally get told by TCAS. Is it so difficult to understand why they do not easily believe that their safety was compromised unless they are actually knocked off their perch at the time or are at the very least shaken or stirred by what they discover later?

So that mostly leaves it to you guys and girls to call - and "It's no big deal" isn't the kind of call that reassures us all.
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