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Contingency plan testing and review effectiveness

Issue number: AO-2012-047-SI-03
Who it affects: All Airservices Australia air traffic controllers
Issue owner: Airservices Australia
Operation affected: Aviation: Airspace management
Background: Investigation Report AO-2012-047
Date: 28 February 2014

Safety issue description

Airservices Australia’s processes for reviewing and testing contingency plans did not effectively ensure that all documented contingency plan details were current and that its contingency plans could be successfully implemented at short notice.

Response to safety issue

In response to this safety issue, Airservices Australia (Airservices) advised the following:

Airservices considers that the established process currently in place for reviewing and testing contingency plans for currency and effectiveness is robust and fit for purpose.

Airservices reported that the National ATS Contingency Plan documented the requirements for routine review and testing of contingency plans, in addition to the requirement for a Post Activation Review to be completed following the activation of an ATS contingency (either live or test) and that report was ‘reviewed by Airservices Management to ensure appropriate corrective action is taken and lessons learnt.’

In addition, Airservices advised:

However, Airservices acknowledges that closer consultation with Indonesia in relation to contingency arrangement notification is necessary. This matter will be addressed under the guidelines of the ICAO Asia Pacific Regional Contingency Plan Task Force (RACP/TF) and the bi-annual Australia/Indonesia ATS Coordination Group (AUSINDO).

 

ATSB comment:

The ATSB is not satisfied that Airservices has adequately addressed the identified safety issue. Although there was an established schedule for the routine review and testing of contingency plans, the processes associated with those reviews was not effective in ensuring that the plan could be effectively implemented within a limited period of time, including through the ability to contact key stakeholders. There was no documented evidence of the completion of some reviews and no documentation of the outcomes of the annual review of the Tops Group contingency plan that was completed 7 months prior to the occurrence. The ATSB acknowledges the existing contingency plan review schedule, but remains concerned that the processes associated with those reviews allowed contingency plan elements to contribute to this occurrence.

Recommendation

Action organisation: Airservices Australia
Action number: AO-2012-047-SR-030
Date: 21 February 2014
Action status: Released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that Airservices Australia takes safety action to address the processes for reviewing and testing contingency plans to ensure that they are effective in ensuring that all documented contingency plans are current and can be successfully implemented at short notice.

Correspondence

Date received: 27 February 2014
Response from: Airservices Australia
Response text:

Airservices Australia was provided with an advance copy of the final report, including this recommendation, on 21 February 2014. On 27 February 2013, Airservices advised:

Airservices has previously provided advice that the established processes for the testing and review of ATS contingency plans were fit for purpose. Airservices has further reviewed the robustness of these processes and would like to provide these further safety actions:

1.  An ATS Business Continuity Role has been established within ATC Group. The selection exercise to fill the role is underway. The role will assure that contingency plans are fit for purpose and are tested regularly and to the appropriate level of detail to ensure that the plans are robust.  The specific requirements of the role include:

  • ensuring the readiness of ATC to respond to abnormal operations. This includes:
    • ensuring baseline changes to ATC procedures, process and systems are reflected in ATC Business Continuity Plans, sub plans and supporting artefacts
    • ensuring appropriate training is developed and delivered
    • provide technical assistance to business groups with the development  of their business continuity plans
    • responsibility for ensuring testing of National ATC Plans
  • monitoring individual Service Delivery Line compliance with business continuity testing and review requirements
  • establishing of a program to ensure updating of plans after regular (AIRAC) and irregular change.

2.   Review and testing requirements. These processes have been strengthened to require the provision of documented evidence of testing and outcomes of reviews. Three and six monthly reviews are required to be recorded in the Airways Operation Journal and the annual test and quality review is required to be recorded in a Post Activation Report.   In addition, Airservices instructions require that a report on the activation of Business Continuity and Contingency Plans, whether for testing or an actual event, must be provided to Operations support to assure that lessons learn are acted upon in a timely manner.

Airservices is intending to conduct a review of the effectiveness of the safety actions mentioned above and in our initial response dated 30 November 2013. We will formally respond to ATSB on the outcome of this review and our confirmed position relating to ATSB's recommendations in accordance with the instructions outlined in your letter dated 21 February 2014.

Date received: 30 May 2014
Response from: Airservices Australia
Action status: Closed
Response text:

On 30 May 2014, Airservices stated:

The ATS [Air Traffic Services] Business Continuity Manager role has been filled within the ATC [Air Traffic Control] Group. This role provides technical assistance and coordination across the Group to facilitate the compliance with the process requirements for the review, test and update of ATS contingency plans. The role also provides national-level standardisation and monitoring to assure that ATS contingency plans are current, fit-for-purpose and can facilitate practical implementation.

The contingency plan test/review requirements have been strengthened to require the provision of documented evidence of testing and outcomes of reviews. Three and six monthly reviews are required to be recorded in the Airways Operation Journal and the annual test and quality review is required to be recorded in a Post Activation Report. In addition, Airservices instructions require that a report on the activation of business continuity and contingency plans, whether for testing or an actual event, must be provided to Operations Support Branch.

All annual desktop exercise recommendations, lessons learnt and associated actions must now be tracked in Airservices CIRRIS system. This supports the national assurance that lessons learned and continuous improvement issues previously identified are acted upon in a timely and systematic manner.

In addition, an internal review of relevant contingency documentation was undertaken to determine if the likelihood of unknown aircraft in the airspace during the contingency period or on resumption of services has been reduced to As Low As Reasonable Practicable (ALARP). This review has identified a number of other process improvements which will be tracked via the CIRRIS system.

Furthermore, Airservices continues to participate in ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] Asia Pacific Regional Contingency Plan Task Force (RACP/TF) to develop formalised agreement with neighbouring ANSPs [Air Navigation Service Providers] to follow standardised ICAO template for contingency plans. This will further improve the communications and coordination across FIR boundaries in contingency situations which impact on neighbouring ANSPs.

   
Current issue status: Adequately addressed
Status justification:

The ATSB recognises Airservices' actions to address this safety issue and are satisfied that enhancements to the processes for reviewing and testing contingency plans adequately address the safety issue.

 
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Last update 24 June 2014