When Neil May, Head of Human Factors at NATS (formerly National Air Traffic Services) very kindly agreed to host a visit for the CIEHF Southern Regional Group, it was anticipated that it would be a very popular event and two dates were set up in April and May. The visits were limited to 15 people and the places filled up immediately by members from the Southern and London and South East Regional Groups. As the list grew, Neil very kindly agreed to a third visit so 45 members were very privileged to be exposed to the human factors challenges of the Air Traffic Management domain.
The Swanwick Air Traffic Control Centre became operational in 2002 and is a most impressive site. NATS supports 14 airports in the UK, 10 airports overseas and handles in excess of 5,500 flights per day through UK airspace. They have a large team of 28 human factors practitioners delivering the required capability to the controllers and the trainers.
We were given excellent presentations of the organisation, human factors processes and practices and of course the award winning workstation. The Civil and Military Controllers are co-located and we were permitted to watch them from an observation area whilst aspects such as duty cycle requirements, training and simulation were explained.
Then we visited another most impressive development facility which hosted an online conferencing suite. This enabled a further presentation from the Prestwick Air Traffic Control Centre on the human factors aspects pertinent to controlling aircraft over the North Atlantic. We were also able to interact with their Human Factors Assurance Framework which is a most comprehensive set of practices and processes. These are applied to all change projects and are used to collect data and evidence about human performance. This is an essential input into the provision of assurance that safety will not be adversely affected by any new designs or changes to their operation.
The real measure of success of the visits was the enthusiastic interaction that the visitors had with their hosts and with their peers. A host of glowing appreciative emails were received after the visits and terms such as ‘inspirational’ , ‘informative’, ‘thought provoking’, and ‘fascinating’ characterised the tone of the emails.
So our sincere thanks to Neil May, Victoria Valentinova, Nic Turley, Sean Cleary, Jenny Ludford, Simon Skinner, Jeff Crick, Anna Collard-Scruby, Martin Cox, Laura Voller and Mihai Lulea for an outstanding visit and for their generosity in hosting three visits.
Jo Davies, Southern Regional Group Organiser
Photo credit: NATS