Controlled Chaos over Switzerland
Rush hour is a permanent feature across our skies. Air traffic is increasing rapidly and becoming ever more complex. The sky over Switzerland is particularly busy, as it is one of the densest airspaces in Europe. This is due to the country's central location within the global air network, with a large number of neighbouring international airports and important crossing points. Monitoring and securing these gigantic flight operations is the task of the Swiss air navigation service provider Skyguide. This company controls Swiss airspace so that air traffic runs safely, smoothly and efficiently worldwide and right around the clock.
Skyguide is one hundred percent committed to safety. The most important prerequisite for this is functioning communication between ground and air, without which flight operations must be stopped immediately. However, apart from transmitting information, it is very important to be able to record it as well. For this purpose, Skyguide was looking for a flexible recording system which is capable of documenting all transmitted data, reliably with no gaps. All recordings must be stored in a way to ensure that they can be used as evidence and unauthorised access must be prevented. Replay and processing of the recorded conversations must only be possible externally, in the office of the competent Regional Investigation Team (RIT), as the air traffic controllers are not allowed to make their own assessments.
To guarantee communication at regional airports, Skyguide uses vehicles equipped with radios and telephones. This ensures that the information between air traffic controllers and pilots can be transmitted at any time, without interruption, even in the event of a tower failure. Moreover, these vehicles may also be deployed temporarily at other locations: for example, during air shows or at small airports that do not have a tower or any equipment to record radio communications. These control vehicles, of which a total of five units are available, were now to be equipped with advanced recording systems including suitable storage media in order to guarantee reliable documentation of communications.
Reliable management of air traffic requires absolute transparency and traceability. Considering the specific needs of Skyguide, ATIS decided to supply the mobile IR 44 recorder from the VoiceCollect product family. ATIS has integrated his small, but highly efficient recording system with a capacity for up to four channels, into the control desks of the Skyguide vehicles. Radio clocks made by Meinberg with DCF77 receivers and indoor antennas ensure that absolutely precise time information is assigned to the conversations recorded. The connection to the communications infrastructure is made via a phone cord adapter. All conversations are saved on CF cards and can be played back and analysed in the RIT office, using a replay application. The option of directly playing back recordings from the recorder has been disabled, as required by the customer. To guarantee that the recordings are suitable as evidence, all data is additionally stored in an ATIS-specific format which doesn't allow modifications. With this new solution, ATIS made sure that safety and reliability as well as the communication between controllers and pilots are not just empty words at Skyguide: Thanks to the IR 44 from ATIS we are now in a position to reduce the interruption of flight operations to a minimum in the event of an incident. We are very satisfied with the solution implemented and happy that all of our requirements could be met.