Refresher training is a part of the ATCO continuation training (i.e. the training that is done after obtaining an ATCO license). Its main purpose is to reinforce, enhance and prevent the erosion of the controller knowledge and skills.
In the EU, the requirements for the design and conduct of refresher training are specified in Regulation 2015/340. There are three mandatory areas that need to be covered:
- standard practices and procedures;
- abnormal and emergency situations;
- human factors training.
Standard practices and procedures
While training in standard practices and procedures may cover any aspect of those, it is worth considering dedicating at least a part of the refresher course to procedures and practices that are rarely used (e.g. seasonal procedures) or derived from occurrence reports and safety surveys. For air traffic controllers providing aerodrome control service from a remote tower, the refresher training should include familiarisation with the physical aerodrome environment and the different stakeholders via study visit(s).
Abnormal and emergency situations
Abnormal situation and emergency training should be designed to expose air traffic controllers to circumstances and situations which they do not habitually or commonly experience. The essential difference from an emergency situation is that the element of danger or serious risk is not necessarily present in an abnormal situation. The situations to be practiced may be derived from occurrence reports or from the list of identified abnormal and emergency situations (that is defined for the specific unit endorsement). A specific issue with this training is simulating the element of surprise. This could be somewhat mitigated by altering the sequence of training events. Instead of starting with a theoretical part discussing the emergency and abnormal situations followed by a simulator exercise, the latter may be placed first so that the controller is not aware what to expect exactly. However even so, controllers attending the course know that they will have to deal with something unusual which would normally make them more vigilant compared to the average workday.
Communication misunderstanding is present in many aviation occurrences and the consistent use of approved phraseology is designed to mitigate such events. Therefore, both the Standard practices and procedures and the Emergency and abnormal situations training must include the use of approved phraseology and effective communication. For this purpose, training organisations should develop relevant objectives.
Human factors training
The Human factors training must include at least team resource management, fatigue management and stress management.
The frequency and minimum duration of refresher training are determined in the Unit competecy scheme. This is a document that defines, among other things, the procedures for the obtaining and revalidation of air traffic controller unit endorsements for a specific ATS unit and is approved by the competent authority (normally the state's civil aviation authority). From a practical point of view, aligning the refresher training frequency with the frequency of unit competence assessments may be beneficial.