Washington Center (ZDC) member Jaymi Steinberg, who serves on the Technical Operations Committee (TOC) of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), and Denver TRACON (D01) member Deidre Hatchard, who serves on the Professional & Legal Committee (PLC), recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong for a meeting to review working papers for the upcoming 58th IFATCA Conference in Costa Rica.
“It’s always interesting to hear many different perspectives, but at their core so many of the issues we face here in the U.S. as air traffic controllers are similar to the rest of the world,” Steinberg said. “Think for a moment how many people are involved on a single flight from London to Perth — from the obvious pilots and controllers to the baggage handlers, airport designers, and passengers. All over the world, we are all in need of better staffing, seeking better working conditions, and striving to keep things running safely.”
“It is an important and rewarding experience to represent the U.S. on the PLC,” Hatchard said. “States, countries, and member associations bring their problems or issues to IFATCA and then the committees within IFATCA are tasked with looking for solutions to help them. Hearing about issues around the world and then creating policy to assist our member associations in dealing with the issues has been eye-opening and very gratifying. As controllers, we are truly one community as the major problem among all of us is staffing. Hearing that many facilities are as understaffed or worse is both comforting, in that we are not alone, and alarming. There are many other issues the U.S. shares with others around the world, as well as big differences from them.
The members of the two committees went on tours of center and approach facilities, including some of the local traffic management unit (TMU) planning tools, and also received an abbreviated version of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Think Safety workshop.
“During the workshop, we had an interesting discussion on safety and how it is gray and is neither present nor absent but on a sliding scale,” Steinberg said. “The goal is to spread systemic safety throughout the air traffic workforce in each country. There is a universal hope for more practical skills and discussion over lecture.”
The members of the TOC and PLC will use the input collected during the review meeting to further improve the working papers — covering topics including spacing with uncontrolled traffic, human centered approach to implementation of technology, airport infrastructure development, and interoperability between different flight exchange systems. Then, the papers will be distributed to IFATCA's member associations, so they can be discussed at the May conference in Costa Rica.