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July 15, 2016 // Turn Off Tune In Becomes a ‘Global Phenomenon’

Professional Standards Co-Leads Jeff Richards (left) and Garth Koleszar (right) addessing IFATCA Conference attendees. Kolszar also serves on the TOTI workgroup.

This article has been published by the FAA.

Whether you’re controlling flights in the United States, Africa, Europe, or anywhere else on planet Earth, staying focused on the job and being free of distractions is paramount for safety.

That was highlighted at the annual International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) conference in Las Vegas in March, where controllers from all over the world met to discuss safety topics in air traffic control, including eliminating distractions.

“We are in the same boat, no matter where we’re coming from,” IFATCA President and Chief Executive Officer Patrik Peters of Germany said at the conference. “No matter what our background is, we all have the same problems. Having that same goal unites us.”

The FAA and NATCA launched Turn Off Tune In (TOTI) in 2013 to prevent potential risk of mobile phone use in operating areas brought on by technological advancements in the devices. It didn’t take long for U.S. air traffic facilities to recognize the campaign’s importance and make it a component of their own safety culture. And, thanks to international gatherings like the IFATCA conference and the attendance of controllers from other countries at NATCA’s Communicating For Safety conference, TOTI is having a positive influence around the world.

For Turn Off Tune In workgroup leaders Garth Koleszar and Rob Mickolayck, it was an enlightening experience to hear the stories, opinions, and concerns of foreign controllers at the IFATCA conference. Turn Off Tune In and its other Foundations of Professionalism programs hosted a booth to educate visitors and hold discussions on the subject.

“TOTI has become a global phenomenon,” said Mickolayck, a supervisor at Chicago Center. “Support for the program is overwhelmingly positive. Countless people would approach the booth, see the TOTI logo, and want to talk about the need for the program in their facilities.”

Air traffic professionals from 30 countries visited the booth and shared their thoughts in a new video. Zephania Sholobela, a controller from Zambia, said workplace distractions are “a big problem cutting across the world.”

Ronald Vega Bolanos of Costa Rica agreed: “You lose the big picture of whatever you’re doing. And it could be a terrible mistake.”

A controller from Kenya took a stack of TOTI stickers for the second year in a row at the conference. She has put the stickers all over her facility, in each sector.

“Everyone agreed that educating their people and convincing them to stop the behavior is far more successful than punishing offenders,” Mickolayck said.

The TOTI workgroup created a depository of educational materials for overseas controllers to use.

“We ask them to give us feedback on how they use it,” Koleszar, the NATCA Professional Standards co-lead, said. “We want to know what worked and what didn’t, so we can learn from their experiences as well.

“To my knowledge, there’s no other country that’s close to where we are in this process. I believe that goes well with our goals in the NAS — to be a global leader in the safety process, being proactive in the safety process, taking steps to mitigate risk.”


Pictured left: Mickolayck addresses IFATCA Conference attendees.

Pictured right: Koleszar and Mickolayck address IFATCA Conference attendees.

Turn Off Tune In – The Trademark
Because of Turn Off Tune In’s standout track record in tackling distractions, the FAA and NATCA trademarked the campaign in order to keep its messaging consistent as more countries adopt it. The FAA and NATCA are now the sole owners of the Turn Off Tune In name and mark. The trademark is the third owned by the FAA. The others are the FAA logo and NextGen.

  • According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, there are several advantages to owning a federal trademark, including:
  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;
  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration;
  • The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries;
  • The right to use the federal registration symbol ®; and
  • Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online databases.

Turn Off Tune In has been recognized by the National Transportation Safety Board and recently was awarded the Department of Transportation Secretary’s Award for Transportation Safety as part of Foundations of Professionalism, a suite of initiatives that focus on the human side of safety.

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