Collaboration Speeds Daytona 500 Air Traffic
Thursday, January 12, 2012

NASCAR fans will be able to leave Daytona Beach, Fla., by air much more smoothly after this February’s Daytona 500 because of the collaborative efforts of controllers and managers at Daytona Beach Tower and TRACON.

Once the cars finished roaring around the Daytona International Speedway, a collaborative work group developed new procedures and adjusted others, to better handle the spike in aviation traffic.

“Everybody tries to get out of here at once,” said Mark Beaton, the facility’s NATCA representative.

Daytona Beach Tower and TRACON also took advantage of the collaborative process to improve letters of agreement with two satellite towers, put the staffing schedule online, and give the controller-in-charge position more responsibility when a supervisor is not in the tower.

Participants say working collaboratively isn’t always easy, but the outcomes are worth it.

“At times collaboration appears exhausting,” said Bruce Blair, the facility’s air traffic manager. “But the end result is a product with ownership on both sides that’s not directive in nature.”

Since Daytona Beach feeds departures to three facilities—Jacksonville Center, Jacksonville TRACON and Orlando TRACON—the work group also enlisted their help to figure out ways for the burst of Daytona 500 volume to have less impact on their operations, Beaton said.

The collaborative process was also used to improve letters of agreement with New Smyrna Beach Tower and Ormond Beach Tower. Beaton said the Letters of Agreement (LOA) includes standard missed approach headings and altitudes, and allows for automated releases.

The Daytona Beach facility uses a suggestion binder to encourage employees to recommend areas that can be improved through collaboration. Every employee at the facility is encouraged to offer ideas.

Each suggestion is reviewed to make sure it’s technically feasible, then it’s discussed by controllers at a team briefing. The briefing can be a good way to find a team advocate for a collaborative work group or get better ideas to address an issue, Blair said.

From there, a collaborative work group is formed, with both Beaton and Blair making sure to include new people and those who are interested in the issue.

“I’ve seen him put people on these teams that have never been on a team before,” Blair said. “And the ops manager will talk to front line managers and ask if anybody has a particular interest in the issue.”

“Everyone at the facility is on a team,” Beaton said.

That creates buy-in, which in turn leads to a workforce that is both dedicated to providing the best service possible and has an avenue to guide that service.

“It’s nice to have a say-so,” Blair said.

The Collaborative Process between NATCA and FAA was rolled out nationwide last year after its successful launch at 10 test sites.  The process involves FAA and NATCA representatives working together at air traffic facilities on issues related to procedures, technology and airspace.