Last week, I attended the press conference in Brussels where Eurocontrol and IFATCA promoted the "Just Culture" principle. The conference was presented by David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol and Marc Baumgartner, President of IFATCA.
Marc introduced the talk by discussing the year book A Collaborative Approach to the Future produced by the two organisations. He said he was very proud of the publication and hope it would do a lot to promote the work that controllers and operational staff do around the world. Marc continued to talk about the shortfall of operational staff around the world and what needs to be done to combat these issues. He also pointed out the importance of the human influence in Air Traffic Management and that this can not be discounted at present as future technologies will not remove the human factor for at least another 20 years. David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol then spoke about the introduction of the "Just Culture" concept to the industry. How in the future the industry must 'pre-analyse' the "accidents that didn't happen". Operational staff must become an integral part of the safety loop. Mr McMillan was after the end of the conference questioned about many issues relating to the SES implementation. It seems that both Marc and David were still very unclear where SES is going in the next few years but they were both clear about one thing. SES will be a positive progression for European ATM in that it will combine resources. FAB'S will encourage co-operations, larger flexibility and ability to manage staff within each airspace block. David McMillan then mentioned two FAB's in central and eastern Europe are picking up pace with the commitment to co-operate together Editor's Comment: The whole concept of "Just Culture" is a nice new fresh concept. But are the operational staff willing to admit their "nearly incidents" in order to improve safety. It is a nice concept but whether it works in principle is another matter. Controllers are all totally behind promoting safety in their industry and as an industry I have never come across individuals who care so much about doing their job right, but in any industry is it easy to ask an individual to admit their "nearly incidents". To persuade them the "Just Culture" concept will improve future safety is not the issue. The issue might be more what will happen if they do admit they nearly encountered an operational error. Especialy in such an industry where an operational error can result in you losing your job. To promote such a new concept in aviation safety I think that the powers that be are going to have to pay a lot of attention into convincing the operational staff that the so called "Just Culture" is not only the way forward for the industry but also the way forward in helping their staff feeling more confident in their ability to improve future safety and their confidence in doing their jobs. A great concept, but if it isn't communicated properly to the people concerned and who really matter, it will only be that.