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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Air Traffic Controllers launch professional standards programme assisted by NATCA

Building on the success of the Peer Assistance Network (PAN) and Professional Standards for Pilots, NZALPA’s Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) have launched their own dedicated Professional Standards Programme (PROSTAN).

PROSTAN will provide an effective and confidential service to achieve conflict resolution within the workplace with the support of volunteers, trusted and trained from within the ATCs own ranks. Last month, Garth Koleszar from the United States National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) travelled to New Zealand to assist ATC Councillor Chris Miller and team establish the Programme and run an intensive training course for Professional Standards volunteers. 

Koleszar and Miller recently spoke at a seminar for Christchurch-based ATCs, as well as visiting controllers from other units around the country.

As a working ATC based in Los Angeles, Koleszar was one of the founding members of the US Programme that has been running since 2010. It recognised that ATCs have different conflict issues than pilots, with specific challenges and a different working environment in which workmates don’t necessarily change at the end of every shift or once a flight lands. 

The US Programme’s success has an impressive 93 percent resolution rate of all cases submitted.  The remaining seven percent of cases are unresolved and the person submitting the case is able to take action by traditional means.

Chris Miller, backed by NZALPA ATC Council members and other volunteers, is responsible for implementing the Programme throughout all control centres and towers. They have received great support from NZALPA pilots who already have their own programme up and running.

It was noted at the seminar that every ATC around the globe, as part of their role, share similar challenges and pressures regardless of the jurisdiction they work in. The US experience has demonstrated that a Professional Standards Programme can successfully alleviate some of these pressures.

“Regardless of technology and organisational challenges, nothing moves our profession forward more than the decisions we, as ATCs, make every day,” Koleszar said.

“The Programme can also operate as an ‘early warning system’ that can pick up worrying behaviours and provide help and support to ATCs and their colleagues before a serious situation develops. 

“Professional Standards are also about respect from your peers and the legacy people will leave behind. One of the hallmarks of ATCs is their dedication to the profession, to their colleagues, and the trust the travelling public has in us.”

Koleszar stressed that peer-to-peer relationships are critical and the Programme is designed as a non-punitive, non-disciplinary way to deal with a number of situations and challenges. 

Miller said that they had looked at the programmes already operating for pilots and saw a real need for ATCs to have their own tailored version. NZALPA took the initiative and will now join the US in creating one of the first programmes of its type in the world for ATCs. 

Although the US programme works in a successful partnership with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), Airways New Zealand is still working through the New Zealand Programme with Miller and his team to see if this is an initiative it could support.    

 “As an employer, Airways is looking at how the Programme ties in with its reporting obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act so we’re working together to allay any concerns in the hope that Airways will also soon  come on board,” Miller said. 

“Measurement to show the success of the Programme will also rely on data collection and confidential reporting methods. As several of New Zealand’s control units have only a small amount of people operating them, we’re likely to report on cases resolved or otherwise by geographic area, rather than the unit name.

“We’ll report this data, particularly to Airways, but details of individual cases will remain confidential. There will be a process in place to inform Airways in the unlikely event that safety of operations could be affected.    

In the US, Garth Koleszar said, the programme has received very positive feedback from management and also staff who’ve been referred to the programme. Many reported that, until their peers raised concerns, they had no idea of the effect their behaviour was having on others.

Booklets on PROSTAN will soon arrive at control centres and towers, and will also be part of the NZALPA recruitment presentation process. The programme will be able to be accessed on a soon-to-be-launched app. 

For more information contact Chris Miller on 0210464389 or atc.prostan@nzalpa.org.nz

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