Implementation TRM in ATC

Implementation TRM in ATC

54TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Sofia, Bulgaria, 20-24 April 2015

WP No. 156

Implementation TRM in ATC

Presented by PLC


This paper continues PLC’s previous paper on TRM (2011), focuses on implementing TRM in ATM. The paper offers a Tool-Kit for MAs, especially for countries in which TRM is not yet implemented.


1.1  At conference in 2011 in Amman, Jordan, PLC presented a WP dealing with TRM and IFATCA accepted the ICAO definition of it. That definition states TRM is:

“To make optimal use of all available resources – people, equipment, and information – to enhance the safety and efficiency of Air Traffic Services” (IFATCA Manual, 2011).

1.2  This paper is dealing with the application of the subject, as many countries around the world have a model for implementing the principles of TRM in ATM or want to have one.


2.1 Background

2.1.1  TRM source is in CRM (Crew Resource Management)

In the early 1990’s, the concept of CRM has been demonstrated in flight crew training, and there was already good evidence to show that CRM had been a successful parameter in improving safety by reducing accident and incidents rates.

2.1.2  Human errors in ATC

World aviation experts estimate that each ATCO makes ten errors every hour, so there are literally hundreds of errors per day (EATM, Human Resources Programme- TRM). Still, very few incidents occur per week, per month and even per year. Therefore, millions of errors are made before an incident or accident occurs, and that raises the question: is preventing or diminishing millions of errors achievable? The answer to that question is no. What we must learn and can teach is how to decrease the likelihood of errors occurring or decrease the seriousness of their outcomes. This is where TRM comes in as a whole system of strategies for the best use of all available resources- information, equipment and people- to optimise safety and efficiency of ATS. TRM cannot be taught, but safety- related attitudes and behaviours can be learned. Furthermore, TRM has a direct influence on ATM safety and productivity. It not only reduces the consequences of team related errors, but also helps in preventing them.

2.2  TRM goals

The objectives of TRM are to reduce or minimise the impact of teamwork related errors within ATM system. TRM is a safety management intervention that protects ATM systems from a common cause of system failure, and aims to develop positive attitudes and behaviors towards teamwork skills and human performance in ATM.

Effective TRM in ATC requires the best use of all available resources in support of a safe and efficient operation which reduces the potential for human errors. TRM is especially developed for improving the functioning of air traffic control teams by increasing awareness and understanding of each ATCO’s personal behavior and human factor capabilities.

2.3  TRM benefits

A global indication from countries who have already implemented TRM program shows that since failures in teamwork function contribute to incidents and often have a negative effect on the performance of controllers, a TRM training program is definitely needed.

The main benefits of TRM are considered to be:

  • Reduced teamwork related incidents
  • Enhanced task efficiency
  • Improved use of staff resources
  • Enhanced continuity and stability of team work in ATM
  • Enhanced sense of working as a part of a larger and more efficient team
  • Increased job satisfaction

2.4  Teamwork

Teamwork in ATC is recognised as an essential element of safe and efficient air traffic management. In ATC, good teamwork is the foundation for achieving ATS system’s goals. Greater familiarity of team members with each other makes achieving standards procedures simpler.

2.5  Self-management within a team

Oxford dictionary defines “team” as: “two or more people working together”. Any combination of two persons or more is considered a team. Therefore, a team within ATC is not limited just to ATCOs. The combinations of ACTOs working together with ATC assistants, engineers, supervisors and ATS services providers are all examples of team relations. In ATM systems ATCOs are familiar with small teams and big teams. Achieving positive attitudes and good teamwork skills begins in the small ones and affects the whole system.

The way each part of a team (small or big) behaves, acts and reacts has a considerable and substantial influence on the team’s joint success of its tasks and missions.

The ability of a person to choose how to behave and react is called “Self- management”. In the absence of self-management, a behavior of automatic pattern is activated without conscious self-choice. A person who is “self- managed” acts with awareness and controls his behavior and reaction which has a dominant role in creating good team work.

2.6  As discussed in PLC’s previous WP on TRM at conference in Jordan (2011), TRM implementation globally falls into three ANSPs categories: those that have embraced the concept totally; those that have implemented a program, but fail to allocate sufficient resources for ongoing training and analysis; and ANSPs who have failed to implement any such program. Furthermore, with the proven track record of CRM in the airline industry, it was recommended to accept TRM by ANSPs:

“IFATCA strongly urges the implementation of TRM along ICAO guidelines together with ongoing refresher training to ensure such a program achieves a long- term objective of threat and error recognition and personal development of staff towards TRM goals”

(Evaluating TRM implementation within ATC and to define the practice for IFATCA, 2011).

2.7  ATC Safety Questionnaire is a questionnaire that was used as part of a study aimed to understand ATC operational safety. It suggests several statements which help to determine whether one is TRM- aware or not by answering the question “do you agree or disagree?” with each statement. It is not a test, but a food to thought that obviously reflects own measure of TRM awareness. Here are some examples of statements:

  • I should be aware of and sensitive to the personal problems of other controllers.
  • To resolve conflicts, controllers should openly discuss their strategies with each other.
  • Team members share responsibility for prioritizing activities in high workload situations.
  • Effective team coordination requires that controllers take the personalities of other controllers into account.
  • Discussing the traffic picture with other controllers helps to keep your own picture clearer.

Those who agree with these statements, or with some of them, are probably “TRM- aware” and mostly have a better understanding of the importance of a TRM program and an adjusted TRM training course.

2.8 Examples for TRM implementation

2.8.1 EUROCONTROL has developed a TRM prototype course which is one example of how to implement TRM in ATC. Elements discussed in this course are: team work, team roles, stress management, decision making, error, communication, situational awareness and impact of new automation. Many countries in Europe (for example: Belgium, Norway, Spain, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands) have sent representatives to this course, as in Europe a large number of states are members of Eurocontrol and thus familiar with the benefits of TRM and its contribution to ATC.

2.8.2 In Israel, a long process of implementing TRM has been running in the last 7 years. An external company specialises in self-management within a team, provides its services to the Israeli Airport Authority and guiding all ATC units how to implement TRM and accompanies ATCOs during the process. The basic TRM training course includes a two days workshop learning a self- management model, basic concepts and many thought-provoking exercises. After this workshop a new language is born to the world of ATCOs team work. Using this special language is one tool of implementing TRM principles. In addition, both open conversations in groups and personal interviews are also part of the assistance and tools ATCOs get from the external company’s experts. By raising inner interpersonal relationship and human relations problems, an opportunity to solve them in a professional and adequate way is coming up and leads to better relations and therefore a better teamwork.

2.9 Tool Kit

2.9.1 TRM implementation has to deal with 3 issues of TRM introduction: awareness phase, preparation phase and development phase (Guidelines for Developing and Implementing Team Resource Management, Eurocontrol, 1996): Awareness phase

Publishing TRM to as wide audience as possible within the ATM community. The overall target population should be ATM operational staff and management. The given information should be presented in a professional manner and in an understandable language (does not have to be English).  Preparation phase

Should run in conjunction with the awareness phase, in order to prevent the possibility of a time interval occurring between making the target population aware of TRM and the first TRM training. In this phase, a more specific group who will act as participants in the prototype training course will be involved. Also at this stage, decisions have to be made regarding the precise mix of course participants, and it is also necessary to select suitably qualified and experienced course designers.  Development phase

In this phase the objectives, content and training methods for each section of the prototype course have to be defined. It is possible and recommended to gain valuable input from the experience of CRM courses of airlines.  Testing and evaluation have to come next. After a prototype course has been developed a testing phase must be conducted. During the testing phase, information and experience should be collected and analyzed to assist in the preparation of the TRM course.

2.9.2  Convergence

Once the testing and evaluation data have been collected and analysed, in this phase those results should be documented.

2.9.3  Implementation

In this phase it is necessary for each state to set up its own national implementation scheme in accordance with TRM objectives. The scheme should be based on the detailed TRM specifications and the experience and results of the development and testing phase.

The implementation phase, after having provided TRM training courses to appropriate operational staff, should also contain integration of the training courses into the national training plan. In addition, an analysis should be made of the longer-term effects of TRM training courses.

2.9.4  Eurocontrol’s model for TRM is a common model among European countries. As presented in PLC’s previous paper on TRM (2011) and as Eurocontrol’s prototype course suggests, few elements should be focused while giving basic and necessary knowledge for MAs willing to implement TRM:

  • Teamwork, team roles and leadership- What is a team? How is teamwork related to safety? Self-management within a team and how does leadership affect teamwork?
  • Stress management- Defining job- related stress situations, how to cope with stress related problems and how they affect work.
  • Decision making- Effective decision making and the basics for individual and group decision making.
  • Communication- How teams communicate? What makes communication effective? And what effect communication has on safety?
  • Error management- How can we minimise the negative impact of the errors we make? How can a team manage errors and their consequences?
  • Situational awareness- The art of being able to see the big picture, how to prevent loss of situational awareness and how to recognise loss of situational awareness in others.
  • Procedures- What is a procedure and its characteristics? Why do we need procedures for and do we work according to them?


3.1  The objective of TRM is to improve safety by minimizing the impact of teamwork related issues within the ATM system.

3.2  Effective TRM will benefit the ATM system through:

  • Reduced teamwork related incidents
  • Enhanced task efficiency
  • Improved use of staff resources
  • Enhanced continuity and stability of team work in ATM
  • Enhanced sense of working as a part of a larger and more efficient team
  • Increased job satisfaction

3.3  PLC is of the opinion that a TRM program should exist in every country in accordance with ICAO guidelines.

3.4  To encourage wider implementation of TRM, PLC developed the Tool Kit detailed in 2.9.


It is recommended that:

4.1 IFATCA policy is:

TRM shall be universally implemented as part of selection, training and licensing procedures.

and is included in the IFATCA Technical & Professional Manual.

It is recommended that:

4.2 The tool kit detailed in 2.9 shall serve as Guidance Material.


Eurocontrol Team Resource Management Booklet, 2004.

Eurocontrol Team Resource Management Leaflet, 2007.

Team Resource Management (TRM), Skybrary.

Teamwork in Air Traffic Control, Skybrary, 2013.

Evaluating Team Resource Management implementation within ATC and to define the practice for IFATCA, 2011.

Guidelines for Developing and Implementing Team Resource Management, Eurocontrol, 1996.

Last Update: October 1, 2020  

May 7, 2020   600   Jean-Francois Lepage    2015    

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