Thursday, January 3, 2013

Performance Based Navigation through Psychoeconomic Lens: Part IV - Avoiding the White Elephant Trap

 White elephants or albino elephants were treasures of Asian royalty as can be seen from this 19th century Thai mural. Legend says that they were given as presents to obnoxious persons or persons who did not find favor with the royal regime. The elephants were very costly to maintain and were merely decorative. They now symbolise ventures that incur excessive liability or projects where the costs outweigh the benefits. How can we avoid having white elephants in the ATC units?

From a previous post, an objective analysis can be a good indication of the extent to which it is economically feasible or viable to pursue performance based navigation (PBN) methodologies. How many ATC units have adequately trained staff that can apply the relevant criteria in ICAO's PBN manual to determine the level of involvement for their ATC unit? The analysis will consider several aspects that are not limited to airspace configuration. Here are samples of some other aspects that are worthy of consideration according to the capabilities and the limitations of individual ATC units :- 
What is the actual cost of training one person to work in a required navigation performance (RNP) scenario in the ATC unit? Is there  a well-defined program of training? Or are policies made up off-the-wall, according to personal or administrative biases? Are the trainers certified in accordance with international standards? 
Can they proffer their skills in another region or are they limited by a lack of qualifications? 
Can the systems smoothly handle the new FPL requirements for RNP? Should the systems  be replaced to meet the needs of PBN? What is the age of the systems; the lifespan? Is it costly to maintain the present systems? 
What is the unit's level of participation at ICAO's meetings and workshops? How is the knowledge gained at these colloquia managed or even transferred? How much do the ATCOs of each unit know about PBN? Have there been efforts to raise awareness' levels to the role of PBN and its implications? 
Does the unit think that it is not necessary to keep informed and up-to-date with progress in PBN methodologies because the unit's airspace does not qualify to have waypoints? Does the unit value simulation studies in Air Navigation Services or is it the consensus that these studies are a waste of time? 

2 years before the ICAO manual was published, a NASA report (Barhydt & Adams, 2006) pointed out 4 concerns with PBN: operational procedures, conventional terminology, supporting operating systems  and over-complexity. To use PBN effectively, the phraseology must be compatible, the training for the operational procedures should be adequate and the supporting systems should be complementary. Based on the psychological rationale above, PBN could give rise to an airspace that is either cluttered with too many waypoints or cluttered with too many blips which is counteractive to the controller's mantra of safety, order and expedition.
This means that the language of ATC will need constant revision. The costs of training will also increase. The trainers need to be properly trained before they can pass on the expertise. The supporting systems may not complement certain features of PBN. They may be old, costly to maintain or not very user-friendly with the introduction of RNP modes. 
ATC units should not simply jump on the bandwagon of PBN nor leapfrog onto any stage of the transition process. All ATC units are like vehicles on a highway - different brands or types travelling at different speeds.  Managers of ATC units will be predisposed to a smoother implementation of applications of several aspects of PBN if they carefully analyse the costs versus the benefits. Carefully weighing the costs and having the unit running at a level of organizational optimality before adopting a PBN strategy will make the transition process of PBN a smoother one.  

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  1. I rearranged the 3 Parts on PBN and made them into 4 Parts instead. I thought that these posts were too long. I noticed that they get more views when they are short so for this year, we will have shorter posts. Bom dia o todo!

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