Monitoring Institutional Framework in ATM

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Monitoring Institutional Framework in ATM

42ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 17-21 March 2003

WP No. 168

Monitoring Institutional Framework in ATM


Marc Baumgartner, IFATCA President and CEO, former EVP Europe proposed the subject matter during Cancun 2002 Conference. It addresses the concerns related to ATM service provision in a commercialised/privatised environment without a well-established regulatory model.

Consideration was given to:

– the institutional and regulatory framework,

– regulation in the various fields affecting ATM, such as Safety, Economic, Airspace, Technology, Human Domain, measuring performance and compliance to regulations.

Purpose of this paper is to explore the need for a defined regulatory and institutional framework, the need for a regulating body to not only exercise the regulating function, but also have clear oversight tasks on service providers and the need for defined background knowledge criteria for personnel employed in the related functions.


The functions

In a commercialised/privatised environment a clear institutional and regulatory framework has to be defined, in which the following functions are clearly ascribed to stakeholders:

– Political and economical direction,

– Regulatory,

– Services providing (ATM, Ground Services, SAR, etc.),

– Coordination (mainly at airports),

– Investigation on incidents and accidents.

Political and economical direction (function)

It clearly appears that such a function can only be carried by States and, on their behalf, by those supranational entities receiving mandate from the member States.

Regulatory function

National institutions

Where ANS were provided by State bodies (typically CAAs and/or Air Forces), government directly controlled both regulatory and service providing functions through those bodies. There seemed not to be a conflict in having both tasks within the same organization because of the direct oversight of the government having the responsibility of guaranteeing the total quality of the public service provided to the citizens.

Since in a commercialised/privatised environment, government cannot have direct control over public limited entities or agencies providing ATS, most governments have defined some form of separation of regulatory from service providing function, in order to maintain direct State control on the body producing regulation and checking compliance to it.

International institutions

The European Union proposes to have regulation on at international level (for all member states, new joining states, Switzerland and Norway). The Eurocontrol Agency is establishing a Regulatory Commission in order to introduce the Eurocontrol Notice of Proposed rule making. For the time being the Eurocontrol decision (like implementation of RVSM) have not been mandatory because all the Member States haven’t ratified the Revised Eurocontrol Convention. ECAC States already gave to Eurocontrol SRC mandate to define and publish the Eurocontrol Safety Regulatory Requirements (ESARRs). Such requirements, providing “criteria” on the matter of safety much more than “prescriptions”, shall be implemented by member States within 3 years from publication through “Mean(s) Of Compliance” (MOCs).

Privatised/commercialised ANSPs

A group of national ANSPs created, in 1999, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO). At the beginning of 2002, CANSO counted 56 members. Something indicates that CANSO opinion on regulation is that, they have the knowledge; they can self-regulate ANS related activities. It seems to be due to the fact that, by implementing, in most of the cases, a Safety Management System, they have the feeling to understand the regulation issue with regard to Safety.

Service providing function

Air Traffic Services, formerly carried out under direct governmental governance, have always been associated with part of the general public service and /or a governmental task like police or customs. In those States where ANS providing is still considered a public function, a CAA (and/or Air Force) department is usually devoted to such a task. In privatized/commercialized environment, often a share company has been constituted, with public and/or private funds, to provide such a function. Such companies have to face the need to guarantee safety without forgetting profit. Also where national regulation leaded to the constitution of a so called “no profit” entity, seek for indirect profit by share owners (or part of them) has often been identified. For example, in those countries where airlines have been allowed to own ANSP shares, a policy of service cost reduction has not given any profit to the ANSP, but has guaranteed lower service fares (and, possibly, higher profit) to the mentioned airlines.

Coordination function

In the aviation system and, mainly, in the airport systems, several different bodies, companies and organizations with different interests closely interact. In many countries it has been found necessary to have a “super parties” entity with the function of coordinating all those organisation and issue local regulation in order to guarantee the correct service providing to citizens. This can be seen as a local form of the regulating function and, sometimes, local officers of the regulating body carry it.

Investigation of incidents and accidents (function)

It is very important to consider this function not as the final part of a cycle, where incidents or accidents happen. Findings and recommendations of a technical investigation must fall back on all the functions carried in the system, starting from political and economical direction, down through regulating, service providing and coordinating functions. Similarly, it is very important to ensure independence of the investigating body from service provision and from the regulatory body.

ATCO’s involvement

It is very important, to guarantee that controllers’ perspective be taken into consideration, in the interest of flight safety, that ATCOs are represented at all levels. At very top decision making level (political and economical direction), absence of ATCOs representative can lead to the development of systems where ATM related latent failures are relevant, within which ATCOs will be called day by day to solve enormous pre-tactical and tactical consequences of them. This can be seen, i.e., in the development of airports that are now being surveyed because of the great number of runway incursion.

At the regulatory level, mainly pilots and engineers staff CAAs worldwide, with a very small number, where present, of ATCOs. The risk is the unbalance of expertise either in the rule making process and the checking compliance to regulations process.

At service providing level, we have seen a progressive involvement of managers without ATC background. This process has to be carefully monitored. It is acceptable that the administrative functions within an ANSP can be managed by non ATC personnel, but managing the operational functions require great knowledge of a job that is different from others, either in the aviation field. At airport coordination level, mainly pilots, engineers and administrative personnel staff the airport authorities. On the contrary, we consider ATC knowledge within the local authority (in the airport system where ATCOs are called to be the core of the air-side and to guarantee flight safety in strict interaction with every other operator) to be fundamental.

At investigation level, the need for independent ATC staff should be easily recognised, in order to better investigate every aspects of an occurrence and to provide more accurate recommendations.


There is an absolute need to have more resources allocated to the regulatory bodies, to allow the accomplishment of their regulating and overseeing functions. This is related to human resources (with ATM/ATC background) as well as to financial resources.


ATM is a general service of public interest. To represent this public interest and, particularly, flight safety, also in a commercialised/privatised environment, it is found necessary that such a service remains under the responsibility of the State, or supranational bodies on behalf of contracting States, particularly with regard to financing and control of service providers.

The sole service providing function may be delegated to a commercialized/privatized entity, subject to State regulation and strict monitoring, to avoid that direct or indirect private interests supersede the public interests in providing a public service.

To guarantee the public interests and, particularly, flight safety, all the public and private stakeholders should include personnel with ATC background able to contribute to the law and rule making processes, coordination and investigation.


It is recommended that this paper be accepted as Information Material.


WP 171/02 – “Regulation in Air Traffic Management” – EVP Europe.

“Linee guida per la riforma del sistema dell’aviazione civile” (Guidelines for a reform of the civil aviation system) – IX Commission “Transports” – Parliament of the Italian Republic.

The Controller – 3/2002 – Foreword – by Marc Baumgartner, IFATCA President and CEO.

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 18, 2020   395   Jean-Francois Lepage    2003    

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