Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

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

Humans and technology

NZALPA’s ATC Director Kelvin Vercoe and ATC Council admin head Greg Okeroa attended the recent 2019 IFATCA Asia Pacific Regional Meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal. The conference theme was Humans and Technology, and Kelvin was privileged to be invited to write an article for the Nepal Air Traffic Controllers’ Association magazine, which he now shares with all NZALPA members.


If I asked the question 'Are you involved in the development and implementation of new technologies in your workplace?’  what would come to your mind? 

Our job as air traffic controllers is dramatically different to when air traffic control began last century. We have many technologies that not only simplify tasks or automate procedures but can make our jobs more manageable with increasing global aircraft movements, particularly in our Asia Pacific region. 

What hasn’t and won’t change for a long time is the need to have air traffic controllers (and pilots) making the decisions we are trained to make to keep aircraft, pilots and passengers safe. 

Artificial intelligence (AI), human machine interface (HMI), unmanned traffic management (UTM), and many other technological and automation advancements, are words and acronyms we hear every day. We all know at least a little about what they are, but do we understand the impact they will have on our daily jobs and our profession? 

Change is inevitable and shouldn’t be feared or dismissed because it will alter the way we work today; but it must be done in a collaborative and inclusive environment where government airspace regulators, air navigation service providers (our employers), aviation and airspace industry technology developers work with us as air traffic controllers when developing and implementing new systems. Working together to develop truly meaningful improvements to domestic and international air traffic management systems is the only way to maintain or improve the robust systems that keep air travel as safe as it is.

As subject matter experts (SMEs) in our respective air traffic control positions we are obviously the best suited to provide feedback on the impacts of both good and sometimes not so good changes in technologies. The best way to do this is with the genuine inclusion of operational controllers in projects and developments that affect the way we work. By developing effective working relationships with our employers and the wider aviation industry we will have the voice and influence we need to make this happen. 

So, should we be more involved in the development and implementation of new technologies in our workplaces? Yes, absolutely. We are at the centre of the system so our input matters. 

Air traffic control is a profession we all love, so let’s make sure we play a part in guiding the development of the technology that we will interact with and that will shape our professional futures.



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