Belgocontrol achieves excellent safety results in 2016

At the start of this year, Belgocontrol was proud to announce that it fulfilled its mission of ensuring air traffic safety with flying colours in 2016: not a single category A incident (‘serious’) or B (‘important’) could be attributed to air traffic control. A detailed safety report on last year confirms the good results we achieved in the field of safety. That proves that the efforts Belgocontrol has been undertaking in recent years are paying off. Another contributing factor to the success was the systematic reporting of occurrences.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Air traffic safety is Belgocontrol’s number one priority. In recent years our company invested heavily in systems, procedures and staff in order to guarantee safety even more. We will continue our efforts: this year alone, Belgocontrol will be investing a total amount of 37 million euros and it will be hiring 100 new staff members.

Reporting anomalies is a major requirement for further improving safety. Based on experiences, lessons learned can be drawn in order to avoid potential incidents in the future. Just Culture – which stimulates air traffic controllers to report occurrences caused by honest mistakes without sanctions being triggered– contributes to thorough reporting.

Historic result

In 2016 air traffic controllers themselves reported 1,104 occurrences, representing a 62% increase compared to 2015.

In 2016, not a single incident of categories A (‘serious’) or B (‘important’) can be attributed to Belgocontrol. That result is a first for our company.

In 4,15% of the cases Belgocontrol was only partly responsible: on 44 occasions for incidents of category E (‘no impact on safety’) and on 8 occasions for incidents of category C (‘significant’). The significant increase in the total number of category E incidents last year clearly demonstrates that all parties involved are growing more aware of the importance of reporting occurrences.

Types of incidents

In 2016, 97 airspace infringements were recorded: aircraft that entered the controlled airspace without authorization or that did not comply with the conditions of their clearance.

On 44 occasions there was insufficient separation between aircraft.

There were 43 runway incursions, where an aircraft, vehicle or person is unintentionally in the protected area of the runway that is used by aircraft for taking off or landing.

The number of reported drones (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) continues to grow: from a single report in 2014 to 6 in 2015 and 10 in 2016. The actual number of drones in controlled airspace is probably much higher, but many intrusions are not listed because they are not observed.

On the other hand, the number of incidents related to laser pointers has been decreasing in recent years. In total, 135 incidents of this kind were recorded last year.

New environment

The CEO of Belgocontrol, Johan Decuyper, welcomes these results, but sees it as an encouragement: “I congratulate our employees with these excellent results. They are proof that everyone at Belgocontrol is aware of the importance of safety and that everyone contributes to it in his or her own area of expertise. Now the bar is set higher and we must do everything to maintain this level. That is why we continue to invest in safety.” In the period from 2014 to 2020, Belgocontrol has set aside 97 million euros for investments, of which the largest chunk, 37 million euros, will be spent in 2017. Johan Decuyper also highlights certain developments in the air traffic sector: “We are building on the technological developments that should benefit aviation safety and society as a whole. This is how we prepare for the increasing number of drones in the future, which we will have to take into account more and more. After a couple of years our activities promoting Continuous Descent Operations (CDOs) turn out to be quite successful, which greatly improves the quality of life around airports. And finally, we are working on a clear framework for the implementation of wind turbines so that applications can be processed more quickly.”

Belgocontrol Safety nets

Belgocontrol Just Culture