Belgocontrol boasts very strong safety results again
Air traffic safety is Belgocontrol’s number one priority. The detailed safety report 2017 states that Belgocontrol performed the second highest score in the Belgian history of air traffic control. The continuous improvement of the safety and reporting culture implemented within the company a few years ago is bearing fruit.
April 24, 2018
In 2017 there were one single category A incident (serious) and three category B incidents (major) on more than one million air movements controlled by Belgocontrol. It concerns a runway incursion and separation minima between aircraft that were not applied. Each incident is thoroughly analysed by independent experts in order to learn from it. The ratio of A and B incidents is still very low in 2017, it is only 0.000004 % of all controlled movements.
Moreover the number of A and B incidents has significantly decreased in the last ten years: in 2008 Belgocontrol still recorded no less than 15 category A and B incidents, compared to 4 incidents in 2017 (and even 0 during the record year of 2016).
This positive development is the result of the daily work of air traffic controllers and all Belgocontrol staff for whom safety is paramount. More structurally, the safety management system deployed in all Belgocontrol operational departments as well as the systematic reporting of all occurrences and the Just Culture concept contribute to strengthening safety. In the context of Just Culture, air traffic controllers are encouraged to report any incident without automatic sanctions. Belgocontrol is asking for an adaptation of the Belgian legal framework. Just Culture is deployed by all players in the aviation sector in Europe in the interest of aviation safety.
Johan Decuyper, CEO of Belgocontrol: “Our safety results are again excellent and among the best in Europe. This is not an end in itself, but an incentive to pursue our efforts. Safety is Belgocontrol’s raison d'être. It is rooted in all our employees’ DNA. We keep investing in our personnel, procedures and systems to ensure maximum safety for all airspace users: passengers, pilots, local residents and cargoes of aircraft.”
In 2017 our air traffic controllers reported 1,809 occurrences, i.e. 64% more than in 2016. This significant increase does not mean that there are more incidents, but that they are more systematically reported.
In only 4.4% of the cases (80 out of a total of 1,809 reported incidents), Belgocontrol was at least partly responsible: 64 times for category E incidents (‘no impact on safety’) and 9 times for incidents of category C ('significant'). The marked increase in the total number of category E incidents demonstrates the awareness of the importance of reporting incidents.
Types of incidents
In 2017, 133 airspace infringements were recorded: aircraft that entered the controlled airspace without authorization or that did not comply with the conditions of their clearance. This trend, which mainly affects light and recreational aviation, is growing.
On 36 occasions there was insufficient separation between aircraft (in most cases with no impact on safety).
There were 46 runway incursions, where an aircraft, vehicle or person is unintentionally in the protected area of the runway that is used by aircraft for taking off or landing.
The number of reported RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) in the controlled airspace continues to grow: from a single report in 2014 to 10 in 2016 and 15 in 2017. Together with the FPS Mobility and Transport, Belgocontrol created the interactive website droneguide.be. This information platform raises awareness about the correct use of RPAS in Belgium and is intended for both professional and recreational RPAS pilots. A mobile application of droneguide.be will be launched before the summer. It will be followed by a version with extended functionalities for professional pilots before the end of the year.
On the other hand, the number of incidents related to laser pointers has been decreasing in recent years. In total, 101 incidents of this kind were recorded last year.
Johan Decuyper, CEO of Belgocontrol: “Belgocontrol pays attention to new phenomena such as drones. We support this evolving sector, for example with the launch of our digital platform droneguide.be and we are preparing other technological innovations to better integrate drones into the airspace. However, there is a sine qua non condition: air traffic safety must be ensured at all times.”