Correcting Hazards in the NAS
I’ll give you an example of a corrective action we’ve completed for NOTAM issuance and cancellation. When there is an equipment malfunction at an airport, such as for glide slopes, Precision Approach Path Indicators, Runway Status Lights and similar kinds of equipment, a NOTAM has to be issued to let pilots know about it.
The NOTAM Manager Tool is fed by the National Airspace Systems Resources (NASR) database which is the FAA’s authoritative source of aeronautical information. Technical Operations uses the Facility Services Equipment Profile (FSEP) database and many of their tools rely on FSEP data. There are many discrepancies between the two systems (NASR and FSEP) which cause confusion at the control center level and, oftentimes, make it unable to issue pre-populated NOTAMs for the facilities whose FSEP and NASR data don’t match. In these cases, we may have to issue free form NOTAMs; this takes longer to ensure that the information is in the proper format. In some cases a control center may have to call the flight service station to issue these free form NOTAMs, and they could potentially take longer to issue and cancel because additional coordination is required. The longer it takes to inform pilots of equipment malfunctions, the greater the safety risk.
Technical Operations has been going through and resolving their discrepancies. They’re about 85% through the process, and they’ve also established a plan to catch future discrepancies sooner. This way, we can issue and cancel NOTAMS in a timelier way.
In the next year we’ll be keeping a close eye on all Top 5 corrective actions to ensure that they have had the intended impact in reducing risk. In our business we can never sit still and be content with the progress we’ve made. We just don’t have the luxury to relax when it comes to safety.
That’s why, even with the success of the FAA’s Top 5 program, we will be making improvements to it starting in October. Currently we select a new Top 5 list every year, but we’ve learned that it sometimes takes more than a year to implement fixes, and even longer for those fixes to have the intended effect. So, in the future we’ll have a continuous Top 5 Hazard List and a hazard won’t come off the list until the safety performance targets have been met. At that point we’ll fill the slot with a new Top 5 hazard.
I want to thank everyone involved in our Top 5 effort and in our various safety risk mitigation efforts. On that note, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and I produced this video thanking our controllers for their commitment to keeping distractions out of the operation as part of our Turn Off Tune In campaign. I hope you’ll check it out.
Finally, I want to remind everyone to consider nominating your co-workers for the ATO’s NAS First, People Always awards. Nominations will be accepted until May 31.
Teri L. Bristol
ATO Chief Operating Officer