Protection of the Identity of ATM Staff Involved in Serious Incidents / Accidents

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Protection of the Identity of ATM Staff Involved in Serious Incidents / Accidents

44TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Melbourne, Australia, 17-22 April 2005

WP No. 165

Protection of the Identity of ATM Staff Involved in Serious Incidents / Accidents

Presented by PLC


1.1.  This paper proposes that the identity of Air Traffic Management (ATM) staff, specifically air traffic controllers involved in accidents/incidents be legally protected.

1.2.  Employers must do all within their power to retain the anonymity of their employees and protect the involved ATM staff in any serious incidents/accidents.


2.1.  The final report on the Überlingen collision of July 2002, revealed a chain of events each contributing to the accident, but in which no particular individual or event was identified as playing a leading role. An air traffic controller working that night was subsequently fatally attacked. Following the Milan-Linate 2001 accident, a controller on duty at the time survived one attack on his life, and has endured continued verbal threats almost daily since that time.

2.2.  The role of the media is significant. Available evidence indicates the identity of both controllers was made public, which established a direct link between the media’s accounting of the accidents and those identities, thereby providing easy access to anyone in the general population who wished to make direct contact with the individuals concerned.

2.3.  IFATCA has for some time been advocating the necessity for changes in the collection and dissemination of safety-related materials, and has lobbied other international organizations to join us in furthering this cause. At the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Navigation Conference 11 of 2004, IFATCA and Member States tasked ICAO with ensuring judicial aspects are adequately addressed in guidance material on Safety Management Systems for Air Traffic Services. States were invited to review existing aviation laws with the aim of removing deterrents to the collection and analysis of valuable safety-related information, and/or develop legislation that adequately protects all persons involved in the reporting, collection and/or analysis of safety-related information in aviation.

2.4.  The ICAO 35th Assembly of 2003, resulted in instructions to the Council to develop appropriate legal guidance to assist States in enacting national laws and regulations that would effectively protect information from safety data collection systems, while allowing for the proper administration of justice in the State; and urged all States to examine their existing legislation and adjust as necessary, or enact laws and regulations to effectively protect information from safety data collection systems based, to the extent possible, on legal guidance developed by ICAO.

2.5 The protection of safety-related information goes hand-in-hand with the protection of the identities of personnel involved in accidents or incidents. IFATCA’s policy on “Just Culture” (IFATCA manual, p.4423, para 2.2.3) states that:

Any incident reporting system shall be based on the following principles:

  • In accordance and in co-operation with pilots, air traffic controllers and Air Navigation Service Providers;
  • The whole procedure shall be confidential, which shall be guaranteed by law;
  • Adequate protection for those involved, the provision of which be within the remit of an independent body (Acapulco 90.C.10, amended Hong Kong 04.C.12).


3.1  The disclosure of personal information details, i.e.: names and addresses of individuals associated/involved with a serious ATC incident or accident have had tragic results for air traffic controllers.

3.2  Employers and Service Providers must take firm steps to establish and enforce appropriate legislation that would ensure that identities of air traffic controllers and other ATM staff involved in serious accidents/incidents remains privileged and protected.

3.3  The enviable safety record enjoyed by international civil aviation is due in part to the free- flow of safety information. IFATCA believes the free flow of safety information obtained through safety data acquisition systems, or submitted by operational personnel is a fundamental requisite of a systems safety approach. The system must also provide the individual with a guarantee of a certain level of protection.


4.1  To insert in the IFATCA manual, p.4422, new para 2.1.20:

Protection of the identity(ies) of ATM staff involved in incidents or accidents shall be guaranteed.

4.2  IFATCA, in accordance and in cooperation with IFALPA, ICAO, Air Navigation Service Providers, and other international organizations, should establish a process of protective measures including the use of legal instruments, whereby the identity of employees involved in a serious incident/accident, is protected.


MEDIA: Global television stations, radio stations and newspapers, reports.

E-MAIL: Mails from IFATCA Executive Board, Associations and IFATCA members.

IFATCA: IFATCA press release.

ICAO: A35 Technical Commission WP 52, June 28th 2004, “Protection of information from safety data collection system”

“The Assembly is invited to endorse the ICAO WP # 52, instructing the Council to develop appropriate legal guidance assisting States to enact national laws and regulations effectively protecting information from aviation safety data collection systems, while allowing for the proper administration of justice in the State.”

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 27, 2020   711   Jean-Francois Lepage    2005    

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