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Minimum Hours in Position

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Article Information
Category: Loss of Separation Loss of Separation
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary

This article describes a real-life safety concern which was discussed at a meeting of the EUROCONTROL Safety Improvement Sub-group (SISG). Details have been changed to preserve anonymity.

He was working at the Area Control Centre in Hightown, he was just back after a meal break and still had a few hours before he could return home. The last few months had been interesting, his new project was going well, but he also enjoyed the few days a month he worked operationally as a controller. As it was almost 15 years since he last worked 100% operationally, he never considered returning to operational life full time; it simply did not interest him. This was the second day he had worked operationally this month, the last time was three weeks ago; he did not really bother.
He saw the conflict well in advance; the two aircraft were not exactly on opposite tracks, but close enough for him to realize that he should do something. With his long operational experience he had done this thousand of times before; he would adjust the heading of one, or if necessary, both of the aircraft. Why it went wrong this time he could not really explain afterwards; neither could he when it happened again two months later. He did give the pilots new headings but not enough; in both cases the conflict resulted in a loss of separation.

Many countries have strict rules about minimum hours in position. In addition, the following recommendations may be considered:

  • The basic problem may be more related to individuals than to the system;
  • Reducing the number of sector ratings is a wise first step;
  • Regular competence checks are a good preventive tool;
  • Studying recordings of RTF exchanges with an instructor will help to detect errors in phraseology.