Rating and Endorsement Policy

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Rating and Endorsement Policy

38TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Santiago, Chile, 15-19 March 1999

WP No. 156

Rating and Endorsement Policy


IFATCA has policy concerning the holding of licences and ratings by air traffic controllers:

IFATCA Manual 4323

Para. 2.4.6: “All ATCO’s must be licensed (Frankfurt 89.C.24)”

Para. 2.4.7: “All ATCOs must hold ATC ratings appropriate to the duties they are undertaking (Frankfurt 89.C.24)”


IFATCA, at the Toulouse Conference (1998), created policy regarding the creation of an Automatic Dependant Surveillance (ADS) Control Rating:

IFATCA Manual 4344

Para. 4.7.1: “Control of aircraft via ADS and Controller/Pilot Datalink (CPDLC) is sufficiently different to other forms of ATC rating to warrant comprehensive training and a separate rating.”


IFATCA does not have policy in regard to endorsements or validations. SC4 continues to study this subject.


It is in the interests of the worldwide controller community that licences, and their contents are identical. This would create an internationally portable qualification. ICAO Annex 1 states that a licence should be endorsed with least one of the following ratings:

  • Aerodrome Control;
  • Approach Control ;
  • Approach Control Radar;
  • Area Control ;
  • Area Control Radar.

The Annex then goes on to describe the knowledge, experience and skill requirements. The Annexe does not break the rating structure down into subsets and does not recommend a term to be used in any such breakdown. IFATCA has recognised the inadequacy of the current rating structure in regard to ADS control. The ICAO annexe is also inadequate in regard to the breakdown of the rating structure. ICAO, through its Safety Oversight Program, is monitoring Annexe 1 compliance but it is not known whether any recommendations have been made.

The introduction of ADS and hybrid display systems that can, at the same time, show radar, ADS positions and generate a symbol based on flight plan projection, calls into question the adequacy and/or structure of the current rating classifications.

Assuming a controller operates a sector that is wholly procedural, but the generic display, as well as showing flight plan derived graphical positions, can also be expanded to display sectors where aircraft are under radar control. (This is possible because the display is simply part of a computer database, and the sector can be re-configured, almost instantly, to be any sector in the centre.) Does this controller require a radar rating? Is the term “radar”, in this context, out of date?

We are used to having a paper strip back up to radar operations. This serves as the procedural display should there be a radar failure. What kind of rating does a radar controller need if flight strips are no longer a part of the system? Is it even plausible to expect a controller to retain a “procedural” rating when all his or her training and day to day activity is concentrated on a radar display?

Are the two area ratings sufficient if the sector is part radar, part procedural and, more complicated still, the non-radar area also has CPDLC and ADS capability? Consequently the display can show flight plan tracks, ADS tracks and radar tracks simultaneously. IFATCA does not consider so and has policy regarding the creation of an ADS Control rating. It is possible that IFATCA concerns may be addressed through the structuring of the rating via an endorsement or a validation process.

In the Tower things are also becoming more complicated. At some airports the limiting factor for aircraft movements, and the most difficult job is that of Surface Movement Control. Does the Aerodrome Control rating adequately cover the use of radar to control ground movements? What rating does a controller providing only elements of an Aerodrome Control Service have? Are the “ground control” and “local control” elements “endorsements”?

ICAO Annex 1 uses the term “endorsed” in it’s descriptive sense meaning that the licence is endorsed with a rating. However the term “endorsement” has been introduced in some countries and seems to have differing meanings in different countries.

Some examples from national rating structures may serve to indicate how much lack of standardisation in existence world wide, and the differing use of the term “endorsement”.


A rating is “endorsed” for a unit. In theory if airspace was transferred to your unit from another unit your “endorsement” would cover the new airspace.

The Netherlands

Tower Controllers with only SMC qualifications are given a restricted Aerodrome Rating “ground control only” this is not called an “endorsement.”

United Kingdom

Approach and Area controllers do not have a full procedural rating. Unit “endorsements” are given on the basic ratings.


“Endorsement” refers to an operating position. A controller in a Tower must obtain an Aerodrome rating before being endorsed as an SMC.

IFATCA is represented on the European Licensing Work Group. This group has defined an endorsement as:

“An entry in an ATC licence indicating the air traffic control unit and the operational positions or sectors at which a controller may exercise the privileges of the valid rating or ratings included in the ATC licence”

Validation is defined as:

“The process by which a rating is made valid”

Current Eurocontrol thinking indicates a preference for a continuation of the six basic ratings, but changes the term radar to surveillance. Endorsements are then added which may include:

  • Aerodrome Radar;
  • Aerodrome Surface Movement Guidance;
  • Automatic Dependant Surveillance;
  • Area Control Automatic Dependant Surveillance.

Australia has taken a different path. The five ICAO ratings are used but an endorsement qualifies a controller to operate an individual position at a specific facility.

It can be seen that the issue of different equipment on similar sectors is also treated differently. The European approach is to qualify controllers for specific pieces of equipment, for example radar or ADS. Australia deals with the equipment issue by specifically endorsing the operating position with whatever equipment that it happens to contain. (E.g. ADS & CPDLC as opposed to Flight Progress Strips.) Both systems are equally valid and the Eurocontrol definition of an endorsement could encompass both.

Though only a few examples have been used it is clear that national agencies are fragmented in their approach to breaking down the Annexe 1 ratings into subsets for training and validation purposes.

Although this paper has not proven the point, it is likely that this fragmentation is taking place because the ATC system has progressed in complexity beyond the simple ICAO rating structure.


The requirement for licensing controllers is adequately covered by IFATCA policy. IFATCA has alerted ICAO to the deficiency in its structure created by ADS. Modern ATC systems are rendering the ICAO rating system obsolete.

ICAO monitors Annex 1 through the Safety Oversight Program.

National systems are different although current development seems to be converging.

IFATCA concern over the inadequacy of the ratings could possibly be addressed through an adequate endorsement structure.

It is in the interests of controllers worldwide that licences, ratings and endorsements be the same in every country.


The EB contacts ICAO to determine whether the Safety Oversight program is producing recommendations for change.

The EB opens a dialogue with ICAO in regard to a rating structure embodying some form of “endorsements”.


Reports from European Licensing Work Group by Luc Staudt.

ICAO Annex 1.

Civil Air Traffic Operational Administration Manual (Australia).

Draft European Manual of Personnel Licensing – ATC.

Last Update: September 28, 2020  

March 10, 2020   435   Jean-Francois Lepage    1999    

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