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Major aviation safety seminar in Dublin reports that European air traffic management safety in 2012 was the best in history

30 Sep 2013

Mr Eamonn Brennan, Chief Executive Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) welcomed the announcement that the European air traffic management industry’s 2012 safety performance was the best in history and that delays as a result of air traffic management were reduced by 40%.

Speaking after the EUROCONTROL seminar on aviation safety, ‘System Safety and Human Performance - Why Things Go Right’, which was held in Dublin on 26th and 27th September, Mr Brennan said that despite the global economic downturn, the aviation sector did not reduce its commitment to the safety of those in European airspace.

“Achieving this performance, highlights how the IAA and all the air traffic management and safety authorities continue to invest in time, technology and training to make sure that every flight in European airspace is safe. It is up to all of us in the industry to maintain this level of success in the future,” he said.

The seminar was attended by 140 delegates and was a unique opportunity to gather all aviation stakeholders together and to hear from three of the world’s most respected thinkers on system safety: Professor Chris Johnson (University of Glasgow); Professor David Woods (Ohio State University); and Professor Erik Hollnagel (University of Southern Denmark). They delivered the latest theories on: coping with degraded modes and failures in complex systems; system brittleness and resilience and; and learning from when things go right, as well as analysing when things go wrong.

While the European Air Traffic Management network saw a progressive decline in traffic in 2012, EUROCONTROL, the network of European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP), safely and efficiently manager an average of 26,500 flights every day.

Mr Joe Sultana, the Network Manager Director in EUROCONTROL said that pilots, controllers, engineers and others were faced with a strong challenge to achieve these successes day-to-day, as they have to adjust how their work matches varying conditions.

“The rare failures are not typical of normal, effective system performance. Focusing on ‘human error’ does not explain why human performance practically always goes right and how it helps to meet Air Traffic Management (ATM) goals. We would like to shift the focus to this new approach.

The various elements of today’s complex ATM system, including staff, usually work effectively. However in addition to the day-to-day challenges, they cannot simply work as prescribed, because unforeseen situations and conditions appear everywhere. Therefore, humans must continually adjust to current conditions by adapting their performance to ensure the success of the ATM network,” he said.

Harvey O’Keeffe, Head of the IAA’s Safety Management Unit said: “The IAA is delighted and proud to have had the opportunity to host this singularly important aviation safety seminar. The overriding goal of everything we do is to enhance aviation safety and this seminar provided a unique opportunity for the world’s leading system safety experts to share their knowledge”.