Moving to a New Facility

Moving to a New Facility

56TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Toronto, Canada, 15-19 May 2017

WP No. 85

Moving to a New Facility

Presented by PLC and TOC


Moving to a new facility is a very demanding and lengthy process. It not only affects ATM as a system, but it also significantly affects those who operate within it. A proper preparation and continuous assessment and reflection benefit the final result. Controller involvement in all stages of the process contributes to a broadly carried and accepted final concept.


1.1 As an Air Traffic Control facility (Aerodrome Control Tower, Area Control Centre (ACC) or Approach Control (APP)) ages or becomes outdated, there may be a need to construct a replacement facility. The construction of a new facility is a very lengthy process, which affects both the ATM system itself and those who operate within it significantly.

1.2 ICAO Document 9426, the Air Traffic Services (ATS) Planning Manual, prescribes the general layout, installation, and furnishing of ATS facilities. The use of the document is crucial when developing new ATS facilities however it does not cover the transition to a new facility.


2.1 The transition to a new facility should be preceded by extensive research and effective project management. ATCO involvement with developing a new facility needs to begin with planning and continue throughout construction and beyond. There will be many others involved in this process such as engineering staff, maintenance workers, and others representing relevant and affected groups.

2.2 Prior to the start of the project, an oversight committee should be formed that is tasked with the continual monitoring of the entire process. Experts of all relevant parties should be represented in this committee to ensure that all viewpoints regarding the progress of the project are considered when evaluating the ongoing work. This committee should conduct periodic reviews and inform all users of the outcome.

2.3 Prior to and during the entire project, audits among controllers can give the project team valuable information on requirements and needs to take into account.

2.4 The Human Factor aspect should be taken into account from the start of a project. In 2010, the IFATCA conference adopted the following policy (More information on the Human Factor Case tool can be found on the Eurocontrol website or in the EATM document “Human Factors Case: Guidance for Human Factors Integration”):

WC 8.7.3 Safety Management Systems

The Human Factor Case is a tool to provide a process to address HF issues for a project.

Its function is to identify and mitigate HF issues from the beginning of any new project.

Human Factor issues shall be accounted for in each phase of the definition, development, and deployment of new and existing ATM systems and into operational training.

Human Factors Case shall be integrated into Safety Management Systems (SMS).

Controllers and human factors experts shall be involved from the beginning of any new project.

(IFATCA Technical & Professional Manual, 2016 edition)


2.5 As with other construction projects, moving to a new facility typically consists of three phases: definition, development and deployment. Some of these phases are further specified in this paper to make a clear distinction.

Definition phase


2.6 The planning phase is an important phase, as it defines the requirements and objectives for all affected ATM users. A basic plan, a master schedule and the budget are determined. As a result of the study performed a Concept of Operations (ConOps) should be written in which the outline of operations within the new facility needs to be specified. In order to achieve broad support and a realistic ConOps, controller involvement is essential.

2.6.1 As part of a ConOps, a proper process of organisation change management is required as prescribed by ICAO:

The service provider shall develop and maintain a formal process to identify changes which may affect the level of safety risk associated with its aviation products or services and to identify and manage the safety risks that may arise from those changes.

(ICAO DOC 9859 – SMS Element 3.2 The management of change, 5.3.73)


Further considerations for the implementation of this process are detailed in ICAO doc 9859 section 5.3.76.

2.6.2 The planning phase is essential to mitigate risks that can affect the safety of ATS. A lack of adequate planning may not be detected until after construction or the move, in which case it is often too late to make corrections or adjustments. Even if corrections can be made, they may result in delays or budgetary issues. ICAO doc 9859 calls for a Risk Assessment:

2.1.1 The service provider shall develop and maintain a formal process that ensures that hazards associated with its aviation products or services are identified.

2.1.2 Hazard identification shall be based on a combination of reactive, proactive and predictive methods of safety data collection.

(ICAO DOC 9859, SMS Element 2.1 Hazard identification, 5.3.41)


2.6.2 Along with a ConOps, a construction plan needs to be drafted. This plan should provide an overview of all the goals and deliverables in a certain period of time and/or for the entire project. The planning should be realistic and agreed by all stakeholders in the project. By working with go/no go dates for important deadlines project management is made easier and it is less likely that anything is forgotten or rushed. In all circumstances, any deviation or change to the ConOps or construction plan shall be discussed in a timely manner with all relevant parties.

2.6.3 In the planning phase, existing procedures should also be taken into account. These procedures might not be suitable anymore after the transition, in which case new procedures and agreements have to be implemented. It is preferable that these changes are well trained and common among ATCOs prior to the actual move.


2.7 During the design, the initial idea drafted in the planning phase, is made more concrete. The layout, design and space are created and allocated to meet the need of the future users. Details are being elaborated and decisions on for example the logical positioning of sectors and (in case of a new system) workstation design are made.

2.7.1 Risks related to ergonomics and working environment must be considered. Air traffic controllers, alongside planners and designers, must contribute to the relevant analyses. Logical positioning of sectors and workstation design are things that must be included in this work, as an example.

Development phase


2.8 During the procurement phase equipment used to provide ATS and other necessities, such as furniture, are acquired.

2.8.1 There are potential risks involved in acquiring new equipment for the provision of ATS. The equipment in question must be of sufficient quality and reliability for its intended use. It should at least be of the same quality as the equipment which was previously used, but preferably better. When acquiring new equipment, it is important to consider recent or further requirements as set by ICAO.


2.9 Oversight is very important during this phase to guarantee that no changes are made to the new facility that are not considered from every angle by all stakeholders.

2.9.1 Apart from the continuous monitoring of the building process, an extra final validation is needed once the construction phase is finished, to see whether or not all the requirements are met. The possibility for ATCOs and other staff to view the facility prior to moving can help in the overall acceptance and ease the transition phase. An internal audit can be performed once the new facility becomes ready and periodic audits should be considered after the move.

Deployment phase


2.10 The transition phase should closely follow a predetermined plan including many aspects such as scheduling, training, and the physical move. All affected parties should be involved in the drafting of said plan.

2.10.1 The transition to the new facility should be meticulously planned. The transition plan should have clearly delineated timelines that take into account traffic and staffing. A move should be scheduled so that it coincides with the periods of lowest traffic volume. A projection based on historical data would aid this effort. It may also be accomplished by reducing the arrival and departure rate for a specific period. Additionally, the move should take into account specific aviation events and seasonal heavy traffic levels, ensuring that the transition does not take place during these times.

2.10.2 Training on any new equipment needs to be completed prior to the move. Depending on the changes, simulator sessions might be needed. In the transition of a control tower, changes in views and orientation can have a major impact on the ATCO and should be well trained. Appropriate training for all ATCOs shall be developed and accomplished prior to the move.

2.10.3 A major change such as moving to a new facility calls for a contingency plan to be in place in the event the transition does not go as expected. Contingency plans are essential to prepare for and cope with any crisis situation. For example, safety to the Air Traffic System has been compromised or equipment is not working as it should. This plan, could entail having ATCOs at both the old and new facilities during the transition period. This contingency plan should be part of the Standard Risk Assessment process as described in ICAO doc 9859. In 2015 IFATCA published a paper on Crisis Management which contains some general guidelines on what to take into account when creating a contingency plan. The following policy was adopted by the conference:

ATS 3.43 Crisis Management

Air traffic controllers should be involved in the development of contingency and crisis management plans. This includes regional and sub-regional contingency plans. IFATCA supports the OCIR model for the development of such procedures. Contingency plans should be regularly updated.

(IFATCA Technical & Professional Manual, 2016 edition)


The contingency plan, created as a collaboration of both experts and ATCOs, should be developed, trained and made available to all affected staff prior to the move. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has produced a document, JO 6000.50, which lays out a detailed plan for integrated risk management. The plan includes a detailed checklist to ensure steps aren’t overlooked before projects begin. Some highlights include who to notify, best practices for when to accomplish the project, and contingencies such as mitigating for the worst credible human errors. It isn’t until the completion of the checklists that projects should proceed.

2.10.4 Throughout the transition phase a centralized point of contact for the involved ATCOs should be named. The point of contact would be an aggregator for feedback, issues, and future development plans. This contributes to a smooth transition and the further development of the new facility after the move.

2.11 In the appendix of this paper is an example of a “MA checklist for moving to a new facility”, provided as a guidance material only.


3.1 Moving to a new facility may be a benefit to the users of the ATS as in most cases the new facility will provide a new or upgraded system and possibly new procedures. ICAO Doc 9426 highlights the need of involving experts and interested parties in establishing a new facility without clarifying how to conclude this participation.

3.2 ATCOs should be involved in all stages -definition, development and deployment- of the process. It is recommended to use both an oversight committee as well as a working group in which all parties are invited to work together from the beginning.

3.3 During the definition phase, requirements and objectives for all affected ATM users are set. A Concept of Operations (ConOps) should be written in which the outline of operations within the new facility needs to be specified.

3.4 Training prior to the transition is crucial to make the process successful. Appropriate (simulator) training should be available to adhere to the possible changes in orientation and view.

3.5 A Contingency plan should be in place in the event a transition is not going smoothly. As part of this contingency plan it is recommended to keep the old facility operating with a minimum staff required along the shifting period.

Draft Recommendation

4.1 It is recommended that:

IFATCA policy is:

Operational controllers shall be involved in the design, development and deployment of moving ATS facilities. Their role shall include at a minimum:

Define facility requirements and user needs.

Participating in the risk assessment process.

Defining operational training requirements prior to the transition.

Validating the new facility.

Providing feedback in the further development of the facility.

and is added to the IFATCA Technical and Professional Manual


IFATCA Technical and Professional Manual, 2016 edition

WP158 Study Eurocontrol Human Factors Case, 2010

WP93 Crisis Management, IFATCA, 2015

ICAO Document 9426, the Air Traffic Services Planning Manual

ICAO Document 9859, Safety Management Manual

FAA JO 6000.50 – National Airspace System Integrated Risk Management

Eurocontrol – Human Factors Case: Guidance for Human Factors Integration

Last Update: October 1, 2020  

January 17, 2020   753   Jean-Francois Lepage    2017    

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