Safety Advisory Notice SAN19970124

Safety Advisory Notice issued to: Airservices Australia

Recommendation details
Output No: SAN19970124
Date issued: 25 August 1997
Safety action status: Closed


Preparatory training of air traffic control personnel prior to "on the job training".


A controller was undergoing training in aerodrome control in Perth control tower under the supervision of a rated aerodrome controller (ADC). The traffic situation became complex and the trainee lost traffic awareness, so the rated controller took over control of the position. Subsequent instructions by the ADC resulted in a Metroliner inadvertently entering military controlled airspace without a clearance, then conflicting with a Macchi aircraft conducting an instrument approach.


Airservices Australia have a limited training program in Perth for controllers undergoing training and rating for tower control positions (which includes aerodrome, surface movement and tower coordination control). Additionally, there are very limited facilities to assist tower position controllers to develop specific skills prior to undertaking OJT.

Controllers undertaking approach/enroute training are placed on a three week training program, consisting of one week of classroom briefings followed by two weeks in a radar approach/enroute simulator, before commencing OJT. By comparison, controllers training for tower positions receive no preparatory training prior to commencing OJT. They are limited by the lack of specific training systems and procedures. Consequently, trainee tower controllers may be less prepared for the initial task of OJT in comparison to their approach and enroute training contemporaries.

This is the situation at all air traffic service locations around Australia. There is no specific facility for the preparation of tower trainee controllers. Additionally, there is no policy regarding the preparatory training that should be provided to compensate for the lack of tower training facilities.

This training preparation potentially compromises safety in the aerodrome environment while trainees undergo OJT. OJT requires a rated controller to oversee the trainee while the latter attempts to operate facilities and implement control and separation procedures. This entails a degree of prompting (the level depending on the experience, inherent skills and knowledge of the trainee) by the rated controller to ensure that the trainee undertakes separation and control in sufficient time. Due to the nature of the training, the trainee is often slow to act and the rated controller is required to take over the control function. It is during this period that incidents are likely to occur as the rated controller endeavours to correct problems either created by the trainee, or as a result of delays or misunderstanding in the OJT process.

The separation and control of aircraft in a safe manner by a trainee, while endeavouring to understand and develop particular control skills and knowledge under instruction, is recognised as a difficult process. Adequate preparation of the trainee controller before undergoing OJT is essential for the maintenance of a safe air traffic control environment.


Airservices Australia does not utilise an aerodrome control training facility or program that ensures trainee controllers are adequately prepared to undertake OJT.

Output text

Airservices Australia should note the safety deficiency detailed in this report and take appropriate action.

Initial response
Date issued: 25 November 1997
Response from: AirServices Australia
Response text:

I am writing in response to your Safety Advisory Notice on Occurrence 9601487.

Airservices has previously responded at length on this issue and I note that BASI has only made minor changes to the original draft occurrence report.

I must state again that it is Airservices' considered opinion that "training" or the presence of a trainee in the ADC position prior to the incident had little material effect upon the outcome.

In support of this position, the following circumstances should be noted:

- the incident occurred approximately 5 minutes after the trainee was removed by the training officer;

- the training officer removed the trainee from the "hot seat" as he was becoming overloaded, an indication that the training officer was aware of the developing traffic picture;

- the training officer, a rated ADC with a great deal of experience in this position, had ample time to assess and rectify any irregularities in the traffic disposition or display.

Statements in the original investigation report, that the ADC was required to constantly change the radar range and had difficulty in maintaining the traffic picture due to facility problems are strongly disputed.

These contentions are not supported by Airservices' own investigations and are contrary to the evidence of current and past practice. This point was made in my previous response.

With regard to the trainee, the following points are made again:

- the trainee was an ATC with at least 15 years experience in control towers. This experience included GAAP, outstation and Perth Towers;

- this was the second period of training for a Perth ADC rating for this officer. He had already experienced the procedures the report claims he did not understand on his previous attempt;

- the trainee was well advanced in the training program on this attempt and as such it is even more doubtful that any lack of preparatory training was a contributory factor.

Not withstanding the above, Airservices accepts that there may have been deficiencies in the training program provided to officers attempting control tower training in the past.

ATS management in Perth has introduced a program of preparatory training for officers attempting a Tower conversion.

In addition, the ATS Operational Training Unit has developed a formalised program for ab-initio and conversion training to Tower ratings which includes to the extent possible by the availability of resources, use of the RAAF East Sale Tower simulator.

Last update 01 April 2011