The ATC Shift Supervisor

The ATC Shift Supervisor


The ATC shift supervisor is a person who is operationally responsible for an ATS unit for the duration of the shift.

The role of the supervisor is not defined in the ICAO SARPs. Therefore, variations between countries (and between different units within the same country) exist. The supervisor duties are described in detail in the Manual of operations (or another document, containing local procedures). Typically, they can be split into three categories:

  • Routine. These are performed on a regular basis and include:
    • Personnel rostering during the shift, e.g. determining who works where and when, ensuring personnel has enough breaks, etc.
    • Choosing the sector configuration - the supervisor usually has final authority on the decision to open new or merge existing sectors, the configuration to be used (e.g. horizontally or vertically split sectors), etc. This includes the decision when (and if) to use single person operations or combine/split working positions (e.g. tower and ground).
    • Answering the commercial phone. This phone is often publicly available (unlike the ones at controller working positions) and is often provided as a point of contact with the ATS facility. It can be called by e.g. pilots who will perform non-routine flights, people reporting an air crash, etc.
    • Preparation of the daily log. This document contains information on all operationally significant events (e.g. equipment malfunctions, emergency and abnormal situations and other issues).
  • Nonstandard situations. These include specific circumstances where the supervisor manages the response to an unforeseen event, e.g.:
    • Coordination with adjacent ATS units in specific circumstances, e.g. when necessary to temporarily suspend RVSM operations due to turbulence, when inbound traffic needs to be restricted due to e.g. equipment malfunction, etc.
    • Coordination with other agencies in specific circumstances, e.g. during military exercises
    • Coordination with other ATS units and agencies in case of aircraft emergencies, especially during search and rescue operations
    • Assigning a person to relieve a controller who has just experienced an emergency situation (normally subject to personnel availability and the supervisor's judgement)
    • Management of the response to technical failures, e.g. fallback to a backup ATS system
    • Informing the management team in case of an emergency or abnormal situation
  • Administrative. Sometimes the responsibilities of the supervisor extend beyond the operational aspect and may include:
    • Monthly rostering
    • Approval of leave requests
    • Assuming the responsibilities of the ATS unit manager outside office hours (i.e. during bank holidays, weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays)

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