The Department of Defence had not provided Darwin-based controllers with regular practical refresher training in identifying and responding to compromised separation scenarios.
Response to safety issue:
Even though 44WG [44 Wing] does not agree that effective compromised separation recovery procedures played a major part in this incident, we do agree that Compromised Separation Recovery Training (COMSERT) is an essential element of air traffic service provision. As part of the COMSERT discussion the ATSB report makes reference to a previous LOS [loss of separation] occurrence at Williamtown, in which the implementation of COMSERT is discussed. Immediately after the occurrence [at Williamtown], the frequency of COMSERT was increased in order to reach an acceptable standard of knowledge and skill amongst the controlling workforce. Once this had been achieved, the intent was always to include COMSERT in initial employment training (IET) and on the job training (OJT). This would result in COMSERT becoming part of our core business. Evidence recorded [in ATSB report AO-2011-011] indicates an increased focus on safety alerting in IET at the SATC [School of Air Traffic Control], as well as local Flight ground school and OJT. In addition, the 44WG core knowledge exam banks also include a range of COMSERT related questions which forms part of an individual controller annual currency requirement. Anecdotal evidence through telephone reporting of safety occurrences and ASORs over the last 18 months indicates that the use of safety alerting has increased and has become a standard feature during occurrences that warrant the alerting.
While 44WG agrees with the ATSB that COMSERT is essential for the provision of a safe air traffic service, it does not agree that we need to increase the amount of refresher training provided. Taking into account the fact that COMSERT is part of core business; is assessed through IET and OJT; is catered for in annual theoretical exams; and safety reporting indicates an increased use of safety alerting, 44WG believes that it has already met the ATSB’s intent of effective COMSERT training.
On 28 August 2014, following a request from the ATSB for further information, the DoD advised that:
The SATC covers training regarding COMSERT during Basic Course and also during SPVR [Supervisor] and TRNGOFF [Training Officer] Courses. Emphasis has also been instilled on all the FLTs [Flights] to ensure that COMSERT is part of JBACs [Joint Battlefield Airspace Controllers] ongoing training and assessment. FLTs are currently training/assessing in a number of different ways including: simulator exercises (for those FLTs that have one ), power point presentations, annual exams, during proficiency checks, through training Guides, during morning quiz and through phraseology cards placed in the workplace. HQ44WG [Headquarters 44 Wing], with the assistance of a member from SRG's [Surveillance and Response Group’s] Training Team, is in the process of standardising a COMSERT Training Package to be distributed to all FLTs. This package will include a film and an annual exam (100% accuracy required to pass) that is PMKeyS reportable on CAMPUS. This package is being designed in alignment with the AsA [Airservices] COMSERT Training Package that was forwarded to the Wing. (Note: PMKeyS is the Defence personnel management system and CAMPUS is our computer based training system).
ATSB comment/action in response:
The ATSB acknowledges the DoD’s present efforts and those in recent years to implement training and assessment for compromised separation recovery actions. However, the ATSB is still concerned that all controllers are not being provided with regular simulator-based opportunities to practice the implementation of these actions, including at Darwin where a simulator is available.