The term Air Traffic Safety Electronic Personnel (ATSEP) describes those technical specialists working to provide and support the electronics and software which enable air traffic service (ATS) systems to function. ATSEP comprise engineers, technicians, and computer hardware and software specialists who are responsible for the specification, procurement, installation, calibration, maintenance, testing and certification of ground electronic systems used to help control aircraft movements.
In the context of a regulatory environment, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) describes ATSEP as "personnel proven to be competent in the installation, operation, and/or maintenance of a communications, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system. ICAO Doc 10057, Manual on Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel Competency-based Training and Assessment, said it is the responsibility of the air navigation service provider (ANSP) to define the scope of ATSEP activities.
In recent years there has been more formal recognition of the role played by ATSEP in delivering safety and of their role in the safety chain. At a time of increasing complexity of the air traffic system, it is important to minimise the risk arising from technical and engineered systems, and to ensure their correct functioning.
There is currently no provision in ICAO Annex 1, Personnel Licensing, for ATSEP to be issued with, or to hold, individual documents such as licences. However, there are provisions for the competency of such persons in the form of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) published in ICAO Annex 10 and guidance material in ICAO Doc 7192 - AN/857 Part E2 - Training Manual for Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel (ATSEP). In addition, ICAO Doc 10057 provides guidance to ANSPs and training organisations on the development of ATSEP competency-based training and assessment programmes.
EUROCONTROL has published safety regulatory requirements for implementation by member states. ESARR 5, which deals with ATM Personnel, contains specific requirements in ESARR 5 Section3 - Requirements for Engineering and Technical Personnel Undertaking Operational Safety Related Tasks, including in:
- Requirements to be applied by the designated authority
- Requirements for engineering and technical personnel undertaking operational safety related tasks
- Requirements to be applied by the individual personnel
The European Commission has issued Regulation No 1035/2011 (repealed in 2020 by Regulation 2017/373) laying down common requirements for the provision of air navigation services which, in its Annex II Section 3.3 sets out “Safety requirements for engineering and technical personnel undertaking operational safety related tasks”. These requirements transpose the equivalent requirements of ESARR 5 into European Community law and specify (inter alia): -
“…With regard to the personnel involved in safety related tasks including personnel of subcontracted operating organisations, the provider of air traffic services shall document the adequacy of the competence of the personnel; the rostering arrangements in place to ensure sufficient capacity and continuity of service; the personnel qualification schemes and policy, the personnel training policy, training plans and records as well as arrangements for the supervision of non-qualified personnel….
…A provider of air traffic services shall maintain a register of information on the numbers, status and deployment of the personnel involved in safety related tasks. The register shall:
(a) identify the accountable managers for safety related functions;
(b) record the relevant qualifications of technical and operational personnel, against required skills and competence requirements;
(c) specify the locations and duties to which technical and operational personnel are assigned, including any rostering methodology….”
Safety Management for ATSEP Competency - The European Approach
These European safety requirements therefore introduce a safety management regime in respect of ATSEP which is similar in many respects to that of air traffic controllers. The service-provider has a legal responsibility to monitor and maintain the competence of all ATSEP staff involved in the service-provision, including training and in-service experience (to maintain recency of knowledge). In the cases of certain safety-related or safety-critical systems, such training and experience is a legal requirement before the ATSEP can carry out maintenance or other work on those equipments.
Furthermore, detailed records of the ATSEP work and training experience must be kept to provide evidence that the service-provider’s safety management system is functioning satisfactorily in this respect. It also provides a basis for oversight by the appropriate safety regulatory body.
ATSEP are required to have a basic level of initial training in the electronics and engineering domains. There is a broad level of agreement in principle on the level of this basic training requirement, even though there are many hundreds of different routes to the acquisition of basic-level training. The system for achieving adequate levels of competence of ATSEP relies entirely upon the recording of qualifications and system/equipment ratings granted. In this context, the word qualification indicates the discipline in which ATSEP have been trained to provide the service. Four disciplines have been identified through the four corresponding qualifications - Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Data Processing. A system of system/equipment rating is then added to provide for appropriate levels of knowledge and skills for recognised competency. Equipment/system-related training includes mentored training and on-site training and is the final stage for the acquisition of competence following basic and qualification training.
Recording of Competence
The recognition and proof of individual competence for ATSEP is usually achieved through the records of training and experience within the safety management systems of service-provider organisations. However, some countries have nevertheless decided that their ATSEP should hold individual documents - in some cases licences - to serve as individual records of competence and /or as evidence of appropriate professional qualification.
Airway Transportation Systems Specialists
In the U.S., the personnel responsible for installing, testing, troubleshooting, repairing and certifying radar, communications equipment, navigational aids, airport lighting, backup power, and other equipment are referred to as airway transportation systems specialists (electronic systems technicians) or ATSS. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), these personnel work on environmental systems, radar, navigational aids, communications equipment, and automation-related systems. "Everything air traffic controllers and pilots use for safe flight," according to FAA material. ATSS fall under FAA Technical Operations.
- Regulation (EU) No 1035/2011 laying down common requirements for the provision of air navigation services
- EUROCONTROL Specification for Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel Common Core Content Initial Training
- ESARR 5 - ATM Services’ Personnel
- ATSEP Competence- ESARR 5 Requirements ESARR 5 requirements for ATSEPs, October, 2008
- ESARR 5 Explanatory Elements- ATSEP Competence Questionnaire to competence of the personnel, October, 2008
- Regulatory Context in ATSEP Competence EUROCONTROL, October, 2008
- ATSEP Competence Assessement Generic Competence Management Model,ATSEP Competence Scheme
- ATSEP & ENG TRAINING & LICENSES in CROCONTROL Informations about the maintenance licensing system in Croatia, October, 2008
- Aeronautical MET personnel Competency Scheme in Romania MET staff certification scheme, October, 2008
- CNS staff Competency Scheme in Romanian CAA Informations related to CNS staff Competency Scheme, October, 2008
- ATCO-DB: ATCO Licensing Database- Implications for ATSEPs How to work with ATCO-DB, how to print licenses using ATCO-DB, benefits for ATSEP
- Guidelines for the Competence Assessment of Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel
- Manual on Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel Competency-based Training and Assessment, ICAO Doc 10057, First Edition, 2017