Handover/Takeover of Operational ATC Working Positions/Responses

Handover/Takeover of Operational ATC Working Positions/Responses

Summary of Responses

A total of 9 responses were received: 9 from ANSPs and 1 from an individual ATCO.

The information received and consolidated below complements that which can be seen at the Safety Reminder Message, Handover/Takeover of Operational ATC Positions dated 15 October 2004.

It is evident from the responses that a variety of means are used to assist controllers with the handover of operational working positions. The principal findings are:

  • Most ANSPs have some form of checklist to assist in the handover/takeover process; the content is roughly the same but there are differences between checklists used in ACCs, AP and TWR.
  • Popular mnemonics for checklists include: REST, WEST, PRAWNS. Examples are provided below.
  • At ACCs, checklists tend to be based on a ‘corporate level’ format/content and are often mandated for use whilst in the aerodrome environment the design (format/content) and to a certain extent the use of checklists, is left to the discretion of local management.
  • Checklists need to be short, easy to use and relevant. If they are too long and contain too much (irrelevant) detail, controllers are dissuaded from using them.
  • Checklists are, not exhaustive, it is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that all relevant aspects have been covered although in general it is accepted that overall responsibility for the successful completion of the handover/takeover sequence lies with the handing over controller.

General Themes

Other themes, common to the handover/takeover procedure of all ANSPs, irrespective of the working environment, include:

Before Handover:

  • The importance of pre-briefing, i. e. before the start of the operational shift/watch - see Request for Support Message, “Briefing and Provision of Operational Aeronautical Information to Air Traffic Controllers” dated 20 August 2010
  • A handover produces workload of its own. The role of the Supervisor is important in particular regarding the current and expected traffic situation and possible sector splits. Careful consideration should be given regarding the timing of the handover and if it seems likely that it will be necessary to split a sector within 10 minutes then the split should occur before the handover.
  • Simultaneous double handovers of Executive/Radar and Planner/Coordinator controllers on the same sector/working position should be avoided where possible.

During Handover:

  • Avoid distracting controllers involved in a handover. E.g. OJT briefings should be held away from the handover in progress and Coordinator/Planner inputs should be saved until after the handover whenever possible.
  • Follow the operational handover checklist (e.g. REST, WEST, PRAWNS).
  • The outgoing controller must ensure that all relevant information has been passed on. The oncoming controller must assimilate, and where necessary clarify, all information relevant to a safe hand over and should accept responsibility only after he/she is completely satisfied that he/she has a total awareness of the situation.

Post Handover:

  • Some ANSPs also insist on an ATCO overlap period whereby the handing over controller is required to remain at the control position for a specified period until it is clear the taking over controller has full command of the situation.
  • Until the handover is complete, other controllers on the sector should not give additional information unless operationally necessary.

As part of a wider initiative to improve ATCO visual scanning processes, one ANSP unit has provided the following general handover guidance to its operational controllers

Controller 5 Point Handover Check:

1. Are you fully rested/mentally ready to take the handover?

2. Approach the handover with the correct mental attitude...concentrate!

3. Take a while to watch what is happening before starting handover, particularly where traffic situation is complex.

4. Do not attempt to take over when a critical task needs completing (e.g. traffic on short final with one on runway still not cleared for take-off).

5. Off-going controller monitor situation after handover for a short while to ensure the on-coming controller has assimilated all the essential information.

Finally, several ANSPs also stated that it was important that controllers do not short cut the existing good practice during low vigilance periods.

Handover Checklists - ACCs

The two most common checklists used by ANSPs in ACCs are: WEST and REST. Note: The elements cited in the third column of the tables below are illustrative only and are non-exhaustive.

  • WEST
W Weather Turbulence,winds,CBs, icing, pressure
E Equipment Radio, radar, telephone,spt information, navaids
S Situation sector configuration, individual agreements, military areas, holding, special flights, CFMU/flow regulations etc
T Traffic Traffic on frequency, pending traffic and future tasks, potential traffic conflictions and planned solutions
  • REST 1
R Runway in use Runway in use, weather
E Equipment Radio, radar, telephone,spt information, navaids
S Situation sector configuration, individual agreements, military areas, holding, special flights, CFMU/flow regulations etc
T Traffic Traffic on frequency, other important traffic and future tasks
  • REST 2
R Restrictions Flow,TSAs, Danger, Prohibited and other special airspace
E Equipment Radio, radar, telephone,spt information, navaids, maintenance
S Situation weather, staffing. configurations, strips, holding
T Traffic Traffic on frequency, pending traffic, military, VIP, unusual aerail activity, non-compliance with ATM reg (RVSM, RNAV, 8.33 , ACAS etc), VFR flights, clearances

Terminal (Approach and Tower) Checklists

A mnemonic used in the TMA/Approach environment is PRAWNS.

P Pressure High, low, MSL
R Roles Own and adjacent sector
A Airports Runway(s) in use
W Weather Visibility, avoidance, winds
N Non-Standard/Priority Info Navaids, danger areas, EATs, holfings, non-standard frequencies
S Strips to display  

Another checklist uses SUSIS

S Sector Runway configuration, runway change, specing, restrictions, overfluights, direct rouetings, actual conflicts and planned solutions
U Unusual RSV, Parachute activity, Military, Y/Z flights, VFR, priority flights etc
S Situation Equipment staus: unserviceabilities, maintenance; navaids
I Information Weather, pilot reports, miscellaneous
S Split Transfer of control, frequencies, diversions etc

Another ANSP provides a common handover crib sheet which details the runway in use at the unit, the runway in use at a close adjacent unit, the minimum stack level for aircraft transferred from the TMA sector and several other specific items. The sheet also includes a section for free text messages relating to non-standard items:

  • QFU Runway XX (Own unit)
  • Runway designator, eg. 14/32
  • QFU Runway YY (adjacent unit)
  • Unserviceabilities & Other Information
  • STD Lanes
  • Safeguards
  • Para dropping
  • LVPs

Another unit from the same ANSP has developed an “Attention Directed Handover System” where the handover procedure is guided by physically numbering the salient points of the handover information and directing the attention of the on-coming ATCO to each item in turn:

Visual Control Room (Tower)

  1. Information board
  2. ILS status
  3. weather
  4. Navaids- status and serviceability
  5. Airfield ground lighting panel status
  6. Traffic situation


  1. Information board
  2. weather
  3. ILS status
  4. Navaids- status and serviceability
  5. Traffic situation

The “Attention Directed Handover System” is deliberately different between Tower and Approach:

  • Firstly the position of the information in each of the two positions is in different places, therefore to encourage expediency in the handover it is more suitable that the various parts of the handover are addressed in a different order.
  • Secondly, the different order promotes awareness in the controller that the handover is taking place in a different operational environment which has proved valuable when dual-valid controllers are moving between operational positions without breaks.
  • One of the advantages of this system is that as the off-going ATCO is briefing the on-coming ATCO their attention is physically directed to each part of the process and it is therefore methodical and structured.

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