On the Job Training (OJT) & Simulator Duty

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On the Job Training (OJT) & Simulator Duty

40TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Geneva, Switzerland, 19-23 March 2001

WP No. 161

On the Job Training (OJT) & Simulator Duty


In an attempt to satisfy the demand for extra human resources, and help match the traffic demand with ATC capacity through extra sectorisation or other options, there is never ending pressure on staff to undertake on-the-job training instruction.

This requirement, when considered with legal aspects of the OJT Instructor (OJTI) discussed by SC7 (see Marrakech WP 171 – Liability of OJT Coaches), and cognisant of the problems associated with ergonomic limitations of equipment, lead the New Zealand MA to consider policies that would promote the safe and consistent provision of such training. The following Working Paper is the result of SC4’s deliberations on the original NZALPA paper.

The main areas of concern considered by SC4 are:

  • The instructors inability to effectively monitor the actions of the trainee, especially where training is also being undertaken on adjacent positions on the same sector, and in particular where there may be joint responsibility for the same piece of airspace.
  • Qualifications and experience needed as a minimum pre-requisite to be nominated as an OJTI. Training required to be able to adequately carry out the OJTI responsibilities.
  • Operational duty time for the OJTI acting in his/her own right so as to maintain personal competence.
  • Ensuring competence as an OJTI.



Current IFATCA Policy, (IFATCA Manual page 4331 Para 3.1) includes the following statements:

“Para 3.1.1 “The selection of controllers as OJT coaches should not only be made on the basis of experience but also of motivation and instructional aptitude” (Copenhagen 1978, amended Bournemouth 1992 C8).”

“Para 3.1.2 “All OJT coaches should attend a suitable course of training in order to increase their awareness of the techniques available in OJT and of the application of such techniques”. (Copenhagen 1978)”

“Para 3.1.4 “Apart from being validated on the sector concerned, a controller should not be engaged in training student controllers unless he has two years operational experience.” (Copenhagen 1978)”


NZALPA developed policy that the “ATC OJT Instructor duties shall not be carried out by controllers with less than twelve months experience exercising the relevant rating, and six months experience exercising the relevant validation”.

The New Zealand MA went further and introduced a further policy statement concluding that the greatest risk was where live training takes place on adjacent sectors, and where the nature of co-ordination is less formal and often by direct, but non-verbal, communication taking place. “ATC training shall not be carried out simultaneously on adjacent positions within the same sector”. However, this restriction is not applicable where a more formal communication can take place, such as on adjacent sectors.

NZALPA concluded its policy with the statement “No operational duty shall be carried out after simulator duty during the same shift”.

Interpretations of Policy

Where an ATCO has to maintain validity on more than one sector, it may be that very little experience will have been gained on the sector where OJTI is to be undertaken. In such a case the six-month qualification may be wholly inappropriate, and an alternative criteria may need to be imposed.

In addition, the supposition in 2.1.3 above is dependant on the ergonomics of the relevant ATC unit, and may not necessarily be either correct or appropriate. Examples can be given of adjacent positions that provide different types of validation or even rating. Communication may be neither by telephone or intercom and there is room for both ambiguity in non-verbal signals as well as problems associated with the actual ergonomics of multi-sector simultaneous training.

Whilst in some units it may be prudent not to undertake such training, and where it may be difficult (if not impossible) for the OJTI’s to monitor the complex interaction of two adjacent trainees, there are locations and situations where this is feasible. There is consequently a need for flexibility at such units, whilst limiting the options where such training may be unacceptable.

Problems can also occur on adjacent sectors where they are not co-located, and even where joint airspace responsibility is not relevant. The best method has to be determined for each specific scenario under a safety case/hazard analysis culture for the unit.

The area of electronic co-ordination is also one where both VDU ergonomics and accessibility for the coach can be a problem prior to the task being accomplished. This is even more true where there is a need to amend such procedure should an error be spotted subsequently.

It is possible that the use of a simulator in ATC training may well introduce a mind set into either trainee or OJTI of a “this is not for real” situation that could be carried forward should live training then be undertaken immediately after a simulator session. This could equally apply to a valid ATCO who has been carrying out such tasks as Emergency Continuation Training, or development work on a new sector where he/she may take the new procedures inappropriately into the current operations room.

“Harrowing” scenarios can be created that may have an adverse impact upon some individuals, and even where this does not occur it could be that fatigue is induced by the very nature of high levels of traffic possible on the simulator. For most experienced ATCO’s, however, this is readily distinguishable from reality although in some cases (especially with ab-initio trainees) this may constitute a problem.

These concerns can be relevant to the interaction of simulator/operational duties both before and after one another during the same shift day or even, possibly, on the same day.

There is a need to protect both the OJT coach and the student (whether the latter be valid on another position or an ab initio trainee).

Policy, therefore, needs to be robust enough to cover all the above concerns, but flexible enough to permit practices that are acceptable, to be carried out.

The UK policy for ensuring OJTI’s have sufficient operational duty time working on their own so as to provide opportunity to retain their own competence, is to limit the OJTI time to no more than 50% of duty. This can be done on a daily, weekly, monthly or shift pattern basis, but must limit the length of time between solo operations as well as take into account annual leave and other times when an individual may not be at work.

Legislation and Service Provision

Some MA’s work under a prescriptive regulation system, such that fatigue and simulator work are covered in either legislation or by rostering principles that are cognisant of human factors problems.

Service provision must also be a consideration in any policy statements, such that sufficient cognisance is taken on the effects of any OJTI procedures.

The effect of a trainee’s performance on the overall capacity of the ATC system cannot be ignored. It is not unusual to find that the practical effect on the ability of a sector to achieve the normally expected throughput is a reduction in capacity, perhaps in the order of ten per cent. One of the possible ways to ameliorate such a situation, especially where demand is constantly higher than capacity, would be to remove the trainee from the position.

Any impact on adjacent sectors must also be considered. For example, the trainee may be unable to sustain the required level of co-ordination normally expected of him/her whilst retaining the ability to control traffic at the same time.

The burden of both the legal responsibility for separation and the provision of overall acceptable levels of service provision may be a collective one by OJTI and supervisory function staff. However, such operating procedures must be robust enough to allow both sides of the training/operations requirements to be fulfilled, albeit perhaps as a compromise.


Ergonomics and equipment must ensure that the OJTI is able to see and hear exactly the same as the trainee.

The Instructor should be able to be able to instantly override the trainee’s instructions in the event of any mistake being made over the RTF or telephone co-ordination. This facility should also prevent the trainee from transmitting or talking on the telephone at the same time as the OJTI, so as to prevent any ambiguity or garbling of the transmissions.

Where electronic co-ordination takes place there should be sufficient flexibility in the procedures and required actions, to mitigate against incorrect acceptance/rejection and permitting the OJTI to ensure acceptability of the action.


There is a need to ensure that service provision is considered in policy statements, so as to ensure that all aspects of the training requirement can be implemented as far as possible without prejudicing either safety or impacting upon adjacent or other sectors in the ATC System.

Operating procedures, ergonomics, and hardware facilities have to be available for OJTI staff to be able to closely monitor the trainee.

In some areas of OJT coaching, there is a need for flexibility in policy so as to allow criteria to be determined by local requirements and procedures.

OJTI’s must have sufficient time to ensure that they retain their own competence on all sectors for which they hold validations.

Training, testing and selection of OJTI’s is already included in IFATCA policy.


IFATCA Policy Manual Page Para 3.1 be amended as follows:

Para 3.1.4 to read:

“Apart from being validated on the sector concerned, a controller should not be engaged in training student controllers unless he/she has at least two years operational experience, and has been validated on that sector for at least six months.”

Insert new paragraphs between paras 3.1.4 and 3.1.5:

“3.1.5  ATC training shall not take place simultaneously on adjacent positions within the same sector unless the communications, surveillance and supervisory facilities are adequate for the OJTI to fulfil his/her responsibilities”.

“3.1.6  No operational duty should be carried out after simulator duty during the same shift”

“3.1.7  To ensure OJTI’s have sufficient time working on their own and are able to retain competence on each sector for which they hold validations, OJTI time should be limited to no more than 50% of duty time. This can be organised on a daily, weekly, monthly or shift pattern basis, but must limit the time gap between solo operations and take into account leave and other periods when the controller is not at work.”

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 12, 2020   813   Jean-Francois Lepage    2001    

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