Training for Contingency Operations

Training for Contingency Operations


Training is the process by which all levels of staff in an air navigation service provider (ANSP) learn to practice and assess their ability to respond to different phases in the generic contingency lifecycle.


The objective of training is to ensure that all levels of staff are competent to meet the requirements that are placed on their actions within detailed contingency plans, taking into account that an actual emergency event may differ from the scenarios that were envisaged before any contingency occurred.


It is important to validate whether or not training in contingency has been absorbed by the staff concerned. Ideally the validation process should be conducted making as extensive as possible use of the simulation, training or development facilities available to exercise the concept and the relevant procedures in situations as close as possible to the real life environment. Alternatively technical testing, desk checks and desktop walk-throughs could be used. Given the inherent risks and safety considerations it is recognised that in most instances it is neither practical nor desirable to conduct 'live' testing, training and exercising of contingency measures where these could be detrimental to real-life operations. Nevertheless, a prime objective should be to evaluate the safety of the procedures in the most critical period and sectors including the key contingency aspects identified in the Contingency Plan.

Training for Emergency/Unusual Circumstances - A distinction should be made between training for emergency/degraded and service continuity modes of operation. In emergency and degraded modes, it is essential that operational controllers and supervisors and their engineering/technical equivalents can react instantaneously to 'emergency' events and unusual situations. Existing guidance material available to help air navigation service providers (ANSPs) gauge the extent of this training includes:

Training for Service Continuity - For service continuity, the frequency and level of training for service continuity modes is wholly dependent on the contingency strategies and measures adopted by the ANSP. No two situations can be the same. The extent to which air traffic controllers (ATCOs) air traffic service engineering personnel (ATSEPs), supervisors and managers (and perhaps external suppliers and sub-contractors) need to undertake preparation/familiarisation training for service continuity type operations, either as an ongoing commitment before an event or as a requirement after a contingency situation, can only be decided upon at a local level by an ANSP (supported by its national supervisory authority (NSA)). There is no European or regional set syllabus (although perhaps one could be considered in the context of a functional airspace block (FAB) arrangement).

Principle of Minimal Difference - To ensure cost-effectiveness, the impact of specific contingency training on the overall ATM personnel training and transition should be kept to a minimum. Indeed, whatever strategies are chosen when planning contingency measures, it is recommended that to reduce the need for any additional validation training and to minimise the practical commitment, it is preferable for the contingency operation to apply the principle of minimal difference and use whenever possible:

  • Validated controllers from the failed site to man the contingency operation (not ruling out the possibility of cross-training at the aiding unit).
  • The normal airspace structure and sectorisation.
  • The normal ATC procedures.
  • Identical workstation Human /Machine Interface.

Moreover, it is recommended that training should cover, as appropriate to the contingency measures foreseen to put in place:

  • The contingency plan provisions at the unit in particular the emergency and degraded modes of operation.
  • “Taking over” from adjacent units.
  • Special Military situations;
  • Other situations as locally identified.

Training provision - Training for contingency operations can be facilitated by a variety of means including briefings, simulations and joint exercises. It should take place, as necessary, during:

  • Initial Training (referenced only as part of the training for emergencies and unusual situations)
  • Unit Training (e.g. OJT etc.)
  • Continuation Training (e.g. refresher training, including possible Conversion Training on other HMIs)
  • Development Training (e.g. Supervisor/Management training).

Strategy Specific Training - Some strategies impose additional training requirements. For instance, the high volume of traffic, and the complexity and configuration of airspace across ECAC makes the provision of Procedural Control extremely problematic particularly in congested areas of en route airspace. In less congested areas and for TMA/Approach Procedural Control could provide a limited capability provided that ATCOs are properly trained and endorsed. Continuation training will be necessary to maintain the special skills and validity of the appropriate endorsement/ rating. Similarly, other strategies have implications on training provision. For example, if ANSPs implement a multi-use approach then the use of a training centre as a location for fallback facilities will remove critical resources from those teams that now have to train additional ATCOs and engineering teams to use the contingency facilities. Contingency managers need to access the shared resource to run recuperation drills; the resource would then not be available for use by other members of an ANSP.

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