Thursday, April 4, 2019
skeyes staff have but a single aim in mind at any given time: to guarantee the safety of air traffic. That has always been the case, but the last few years, even more investments have been made. Not only in systems (in which skeyes invested 100 million euro between 2014 and 2019, a large part of which flowed towards safety-related projects) but also in procedures and people. For instance, the Safety Unit alone has been expanded to include 14 staff. For skeyes, safety is a serious business.
Just culture has been in force for a couple of years now and is a pivotal element in the skeyes safety policy. Every reported incident provides insight in how such incidents might be avoided in the future. The numbers tell the tale. The more data there are to analyse, the more lessons can be learned for the future.
Johan Decuyper, CEO: “We notice that the number of reported incidents has been slightly decreasing. That is why we shall keep encouraging our air traffic controllers to report each and every incident. The just culture principle is key in this. Air traffic controllers have to be able to report every incident and be confident that there will be no sanctions for unintentional human errors. I hereby repeat our request to the Minister for Mobility to have a Royal Decree issued that embeds Just Culture principle and creates a legal framework for it.”
The skeyes safety policy is clearly bearing fruit. The past couple of years, skeyes was always able to achieve solid results during the safety meetings. So far, 2016 was the best year ever in the company’s history, with not a single category A or B incident being reported for which skeyes was responsible . 2017 was the second best year, with one category A and three category B incidents. In 2018 skeyes did as well, with exactly the same figures as the previous year. In light of the rising number of flights in 2018 the result itself is even somewhat better than the year before. Of course, skeyes continues to strive for no incidents at all, but unfortunately, zero risk does not exist in air traffic control either.
Johan Decuyper: “Once more we are able to present excellent safety results thanks to the hard work and dedication of our air traffic controllers and supporting services. Our common efforts in the field of safety encourage us to do at least as well next year and to work towards the same result as in 2016.”
What strikes when looking at the figures is the rise in the number of drone-related incidents. Abroad as well -much graver- incidents have occurred. skeyes has already taken numerous initiatives to ban drones in the proximity of airports and to establish procedures in case they should turn up.
Johan Decuyper: “Conditions have been strengthened for both civil and State-organised drone flights in the controlled airspace. In collaboration with airport operators and police services, we will be testing a number of drone detection systems in the coming months. Meanwhile we have elaborated the rogue drone procedure, which determines which actions our air traffic controllers should take in case an unmanned aircraft is detected. Together with specialised partners we will keep looking for ever more powerful technological solutions to detect and ban drones.”
2018 was the second best year in the history of skeyes, with one category A and three category B incidents.
The skeyes air traffic controllers reported 1,489 incidents in 2018.
In only 5.5 % of cases (or 83 reports out of a total of 1,489), skeyes is at least partially responsible: 61 times for category E incidents (‘no safety effect’) and 17 times for category C incidents (‘significant’). The large number of category E incidents demonstrates that people are well aware of the importance of reporting incidents.
Types of incidents
In 2018, 93 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 mainly affects recreational and sport aviation.
On 47 occasions there was insufficient separation distance between aircraft (in most cases with no effect on safety).
There were 45 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 reported number of drones (RPAS or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) in the controlled airspace continues to grow: from a single report in 2014 to 10 in 2016, 15 in 2017 and 31 in 2018.
On the other hand, the number of incidents related to laser pointers has been decreasing in recent years. Last year, there were 83 reports.