An Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certification program, actions from the FAA including a safety call to action, a request for increased hand-flying during normal operations, a new rule requiring airport safety management systems, and IT system fixes. Also, flying over Russian airspace.
Brooke Manley is an Air Traffic Controller and Adjunct Professor at SUNY Schenectady in New York. She has worked at Albany Tower, an FAA control tower in Latham, New York, for three and a half years. Brooke graduated from SUNY Schenectady in 2017 with a degree in Aviation Science, Air Traffic Control, and a commercial pilot’s license. SUNY Schenectady is one of only two colleges in the country that offers an Air Traffic Control Tower Operator (CTO) certification program.
At SUNY Schenectady, students gain hands-on training in the Schenectady County Airport Control Tower. The College developed this program to help fill a need locally and nationally for qualified air traffic controllers. The two-year program includes four semesters: Air Traffic Basics, Ground Control, Local Control [or Tower Control], and ATC Internship.
Ground and local control each include 8-10 weeks in the lab. Using a tabletop exercise with model airplanes, Brooke presents student controllers with realistic scenarios that controllers encounter in the tower. Students take the role of controllers while Brooke coaches them while speaking as the pilots.
After certification at Schenectady Tower, a 6-month internship provides the work experience necessary to apply to private, nonfederal contract towers. This internship is performed under the supervision of a certified controller who is plugged in with the student and can step in at any time if needed.
Later, many students want to work for the FAA at larger facilities. After getting one year of experience at a contract tower, they can apply to work for the FAA. The other option to get into the FAA is to apply directly as an “off the street” applicant – essentially anyone that doesn’t have a one-year experience regardless of previous experience or education. This is the route Brooke took. She went through the SUNY Schenectady program and got hired by the FAA right after she graduated. She encourages students to apply to any off-the-street openings from the FAA. The hiring process can vary from a few months to more than a year wait.
FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen issued a memorandum to the FAA Management Board announcing the formation of a safety review team to examine the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts. The initial focus will be a Safety Summit in March, then the Commercial Aviation Safety Team will take a fresh look at Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing data. Finally, the review team will focus on the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and assess ATO’s internal processes, systems, and operational integration.
The FAA has now recommended that airlines should allow pilots to hand-fly during normal operations whenever possible. The FAA recently published Aviation Circular Flight Path Management (AC 120/123) which states the importance of pilots having the skills to fly the plane when the automation fails. It notes that manual flying skills are paramount for flight safety, that automation requires more training (not less), and that it is not a binary choice between manual and automated flight. Both are essential components with different but complementary skill sets needed.
The final rule requires certain airports to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS). The Part 139 Airport Certification Status List shows the 258 Part 139 airports required to implement SMS. These capture over 90 percent of air carrier passenger traffic in the United States. The final rule for SMS for Certificated Airports goes into effect 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.
- External SMS (SMS for Part 139 Airports)
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Safety Management Systems (SMS) Implementation
Acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, addressing NOTAM system failures that caused an aviation ground stop. He said, “We have instituted a one-hour synchronization delay between the primary database and the backup database that gives us time to make sure that we have no issues there.” And “Secondly, we’ve increased the level of oversight to ensure that more than one person is available when work or updates are being done on the live database, along with up leveling our level of oversight within the command center to ensure that we’ve got leadership present.”
Airlines say Chinese carriers have an ‘unfair advantage’ as China reopens: They’re allowed to fly over Russia
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many air carriers were banned by Russia from flying over Russian airspace. This means long detours. Airline CEOs say that puts them at a disadvantage compared to Asian carriers who still fly over Russian airspace.
Australia News Desk
As Grant and Steve are getting ready for the Australian International Airshow (better known as Avalon 2023), the timing was right for a wrap of some military aviation news from the past fortnight.
Australian company SEA Tech has received a $279M contract to upgrade training ranges for the RAAF’s EA-18G fleet. The aircraft themselves will also receive upgrades including newer generation jamming packages and anti-radiation missiles.
The latest Government Defence White Paper has also been tabled, although not yet made public, with rumours of more MQ-4C Tritons on the order books, and even an additional squadron of F-35A’s, taking the total order from 72 airframes to 100. Time will tell on this one.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) have retired the first of their C130H aircraft, beginning a draw-down of the type ahead of the arrival of a new C130J fleet later this year. It comes as a similar withdrawal of their P-3K2 Orion fleet, similarly to be replaced in coming months with new P-8 aircraft, leaves a brief capability gap in the region, to be filled by RAAF and other allied aircraft for the time being.
And in civil aviation news, the government is said to be considering yet another report into the state of general aviation in Australia, with yet more re-hashed ideas on how to fix the mess. Stand by here as Grant climbs onto his soap box for a bit of a (G)rant!
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, and Max Trescott. Contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Vischer.