Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Directorate General of Civil Aviation nudges pilots, controllers to interact face-to-face

The Times of India
Subhro Niyogi

Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 03.26 PM IST

KOLKATA: A pilot misreading an air traffic controller's instruction can spell disaster in the air. The inability to comprehend the person at the other end of the radio transmitter can be frustrating for either.

Many pilots consider controllers to be sadists, refusing to provide the desired flight altitude and dictating terms from cushy seats in air-conditioned offices on the ground while they have to ensure a safe flight. Controllers, on the other hand, consider pilots overpaid and pampered to do a job that is not too difficult in modern day aircraft equipped with fly-by-wire avionics.

More often than not, pilots and controllers-the two most crucial components in flight safety-have a poor opinion about each other. Though critically inter-dependant: the pilot can steer the aircraft but can make a safe journey only under the guidance of a controller's eye on the sky, a prejudiced mind and lack of appreciation for each other's capabilities and difficulties at work leads to ineffective communication that can compromise safety.

"Whenever there is an incident like two aircraft veering too close to each other or a plane heading into a wrong runway, the pilot and controller concerned jump at each other's throat. The pilot blames the ATC for issuing wrong instruction and the latter accuses the pilot for ignoring the command. All such major incidents are recorded and post-flight data analyzed. But there are hundreds of incidents that should be avoided but are not because they do not get recorded in the data. While they may not have caused a disaster, they certainly compromise safety. There's no substitute to effective communication between the cockpit and ATC," said Sarvesh Gupta, chairman of the Airlines Operators' Committee in Kolkata and captain of Boeing aircraft.

Recognizing the need for more effective face-to-face dialogue, Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Singh has instructed all regions to formally put in place a platform pilots and controllers can regularly meet to clarify issues and clear differences. Kolkata has taken in the lead in the matter and is set to organize the first such formal Controllers' and Pilots' Interactive Forum (CAPIF) later this month. A steering committee has been set up to discuss complete functionality of CAPIF.

"Kolkata did organize a CAPIF in 2007 and again in 2010. A CAPIF was also held in Guwahati in 2010 in which controllers from 12 stations in the Northeast as well as Air Force participated. But all of them happened due to the personal initiative of some. There was a need to institutionalize the process and make CAPIF a regular feature of civil aviation in India and that is what we are set to initiate from Kolkata," Singh told TOI.

To understand and appreciate each other's concerns, constraints and work environment, airline pilots will have to visit the area and tower control and spend some time there. Controllers too will be encouraged to get into the cockpit whenever a plane is making a long stop-over at the airport. A proposal to get a controller to actually get into a pilot's seat at a simulator is also on the table.

"There are a lot of issues that cannot and should not be discussed over RT. A face-to-face interaction is important as it will enable us to react more realistically to the situation. It will also help pilots better understand our constraints. We are gathering data that will be analyze to cull out gray areas that will be discussed at CAPIF," said joint general manager (air traffic management) Kalyan Chowdhury.

Source:   http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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