56TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Toronto, Canada, 15-19 May 2017
WP No. 158
Rating for ROT
Presented by PLC
Remotely Operated Towers (ROT) have been operational for a couple of months and presently there are no regulations available as to how ATCOs working ROT-systems have to be trained and how their license is issued. The question is getting important momentarily as there are efforts to establish a separate ROT rating which would impose special training for ATCOs and ANSPs, as well as regulations on what endorsements would be included in this new ROT rating.
1.1 The first remotely operated ATC towers are active in Scandinavia, more to follow in other European countries as well as in Australia and North America.
1.2 During the phase of implementation questions arise how to operate as an ATCO. If there is only a different equipment for providing ATC or if the new remote tower control is a new unit with new rules, regulations as well as licenses.
1.3 The Scandinavian MAs asked IFATCA to have a closer look at the licensing situation regarding ROT. They believe that ROT ATCOs should be a separate rating (rather than an endorsement), meaning that a TWR ATCO from a ROT must hold both an ADI rating and a ROT rating. An ATCO working a CTR plus TMA and has radar surveillance, subsequently would need to hold ADI, ADS, APP and ROT.
2.1 As the first Airport in Sweden is already remotely controlled out of Sundsvall Remote Tower Control Centre since April 2016, IFATCA has to find policies reflecting the work with these new technologies. The problem is that there are, until now, no clear rules & regulations for operation of ROT answering these questions. Guidance Material is not available and more experience reports would be welcome. Recently there are some reports of Airports already operating RTs: Sweden after some delay is in operation – no official plans on which license ATCOs will be operating there yet. Norway – looking for a solution until OPS will commence. However, the plan at this moment is to reflect the differences only in the Unit Competency scheme. Germany – no official ideas regarding licensing yet.
Budapest is special: They are running a remotely operated tower, however the system looks like a 360° simulator – so the working position looks almost like that in reality. This is different to a remotely operated tower where the working console has more similarity to a radar working position. Hungarocontrol reflects the change to this remote/virtual system in the Unit Training Plan (UTP) & Unit Competence Scheme (UCS)– this was done for 13 ATCOs which have been given a passive familiarisation training (shadow ops) as the first step followed by an written exam which was rewarded by a REMOTE TOWER ENDORSEMENT for each ATCO.
2.1.1 In general ATC licensing it is documented in ICAO Annex 1. 4.5.1 on page 4-5 the different ratings for Tower and Approach Control with their ratings and endorsements. As Annex 1 is already quite dated and air traffic is much more complex nowadays, we need to work on updated regulations which are able to reflect the use of new ATC-technology. More details for Europe, how licensing is divided for the different parts of ATC with its single ratings is explained in the picture below (EUROCONTROL) in EU regulation 216 (2008), 805 (2011) and 340 (2015. In the most recent version there is no information on remote control services).
EASA has some more precise wordings available for ROT and training/licensing:
|AMC1 ATCO.B.020 (a) UNIT ENDORSEMENTS GENERAL
When aerodrome control service is provided from a remote location, each aerodrome should constitute its own unit endorsement.
ATC UNIT FOR AERODROME CONTROL FROM A REMOTE TOWER
For the purpose of establishing a unit training plan, a Remote Tower Centre (RTC) may be considered as one ATC unit.
GM1 ATCO.D.080 (b) REFRESHER TRAINING TRAINING FOR AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS PROVIDING AERODROME CONTROL SERVICE FROM A REMOTE TOWER
For air traffic controllers providing aerodrome control service from a remote tower, the refresher training should include familiarisation with the physical aerodrome environment and the different stakeholders via study visit(s).
GM1 ATCO.D.085 CONVERSION TRAINING TRAINING FOR AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS PROVIDING AERODROME CONTROL SERVICE FROM A REMOTE TOWER
When converting from a conventional tower to a remote tower, the conversion training for air traffic controllers providing aerodrome control service from a remote tower should at least include the subjects, subject objectives, topics and subtopics as specified in GM4 ATCO.D.060(c).
When converting from a remote tower to a conventional tower, the training organisation should consider possible additional training needs, if appropriate, required by the change of operational environment.
As the wording goes more and more into training details we can keep in mind the beginning paragraphs looking for a unique unit endorsement.
2.1.3 IFATCA presented a statement at the last ICAO Assembly on Remotely Operated Tower on the Working Paper 263 (https://www.icao.int/Meetings/a39/Documents/WP/wp_263_en.pdf) presented by ITF:
|“Thank you Mr. Chairman. (I am representing IFATCA).
The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations supports working paper 263 presented by the ITF.
It is a clearly accepted principle that controllers rely on a mental model and situational awareness to maintain the safe and orderly control of aircraft. To date, it has been impossible to demonstrate how a person is capable of maintaining more than one situational awareness at one point in time. The ability to maintain proper situational awareness over multiple aerodromes is not the same as consolidating sectors in a radar environment and generates a set of human factors concerns that need to be fully considered and evaluated to ensure equivalent levels of safety can be maintained. It is important to ensure that the standards and procedures developed as this technology is implemented do not overlook the importance of the human factors in the equation. While performance-based standards will support the flexible deployment of remote towers, high quality standards must be the primary objective when defining performance based regulation.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.”
2.2 Previous Policies
|IFATCA Policy is: ATCOs shall not be required to provide a Remote and Virtual tower service for more than one aerodrome simultaneously.
See: Resolution B8 — WP 92 – Gran Canaria 2014
|IFATCA Policy is: Separation standards and procedures for Remote and Virtual Towers shall be developed or adapted and implemented based on a robust safety case and the demonstrated capabilities of the system.
See: Resolution B9 — WP 92 – Gran Canaria 2014
|IFATCA Policy is: Standards, procedures and guidance for Remote and Virtual Towers are required.
See: Resolution B10 — WP 92 – Gran Canaria 2014
|IFATCA Policy is: Remote and Virtual tower systems should be capable of providing the same service level as an aerodrome control tower; partial aerodrome control service configurations are undesirable.
See: Resolution B5 — WP 89 – Sofia 2015
2.3 Some other aviation organisations/associations already published guidelines trying to answer the question how ATCOs working ROT should be qualified:
2.3.1 The European Cockpit Association (ECA) issued a position paper from a pilot’s view in which they very detailed and put the spotlight on many different action items for ROT, especially operational ones. However, they as well detected that there are presently no rules available and wrote in their list of RISKS and BENEFITS this statement under RISKS which one can see is still the actual situation: “No definitions of what a Remote Tower is and no standards and recommended practices for operation of ROT (e.g. PANS-ATM and Annex 10). This also includes the review of separation standards“
2.3.2 The most detailed and important document is available from European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) in their “Views on Remote Towers” issued in April 2016.
2.3.3 Licensing requirements
As specified in the ATCO Licence regulation 2015/340 there are rating endorsements for Aerodrome Control – namely ADI and ADV. Due to the specific nature of the technologies, human factor considerations and possible operating differences it is our view that, as is common with other rating endorsements such as OCS and TCL, a specific rating endorsement should be created for remote tower operations. This would ensure that Air Traffic Controllers operating in a remote tower environment are properly trained in the specific nature of providing a service remotely. This is consistent with the approach for other rating endorsements in specific specialist areas such as OCS and TCL. ATCO competence requirements shall also include the need for one specific unit endorsement for each of the aerodromes where ATS are planned to be remotely provided” and they summarise the problem already with these words:
“The technology has advanced ahead of proper regulation and a consistent and considered effort is now required by all stakeholders to ensure the appropriate regulatory environment is created.”
2.3.4 Situation in Germany As the first ROT is already partly controlled (for test purposes) from a remote location, the time of ROT operations is coming closer. But like the situation in other countries, there are still no ideas of how training is going to be for ROT-systems and there are no plans for licensing of ATCOs – like in many other countries.
ATCOs and their associations are asking for an IFATCA guideline or better policy about ROT licensing where no regulations at all are in place yet. Experience is difficult to obtain due to the fact that there are only very few remote towers already operational. The question if a special rating for ATCOs operating ROT is needed is not yet answered because of no available reported experience. IFATCA will continue to monitor the situation and asking all member associations to report any experience.
IFATCA Policy shall be:
Provisions, training programmes, separation standards and a specific Remote Tower endorsement are required for operating at Remote and Virtual Towers.
ICAO Annex 1
MANUAL FOR ATCOS’ LICENSING AND CERTIFICATION by EASA https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/technical-publications/easy-access-rulesatco
Commission Regulation (EC) No. 216 of 2008 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1474978980580&uri=CELEX:32008R0216
Commission Regulation (EU) No. 805 of 2011 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32011R0805
EUROCONTROL Specification for the ATCO Common Core Content Initial Training https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/publication/files/20081021-atco-cccinitial-training-spec-v1.0.pdf
European Manual of Personnel Licensing – Air Traffic Controllers https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/content/documents/nm/safety/europe-an-manual-of-personnel-licensing-air-traffic-controllers.pdf
ICAO WP263 by ITF https://www.icao.int/Meetings/a39/Documents/WP/wp_263_en.pdf
ECA Position Paper Remote Tower Services https://www.eurocockpit.be/stories/20141110/remote-tower-services#position
ETF VIEWS ON REMOTE TOWERS https://www.etf-atm.org/WP/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ROT-brochure-April-2016.pdf
Last Update: October 1, 2020