Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Day that a Zouave Soldier becomes an Air Traffic Controller

It is said that a long time ago, carpenters would make marks on their workbenches to indicate measurements and they would then use these measurements as references. Throughout time, benchmarks came to signify reference points for measuring something. As an example, the J32 benchmark that we see in the above picture, is a geodetic benchmark to indicate a reference point that was used in measuring the curvature of a part of Earth's surface.  What are our benchmarks in ATC? Do we have any? Do we need benchmarks?

In Paris, the benchmark for the Seine river is the statue of a 19th century Zouave soldier under one of the arches of the bridge, Pont Alma. Last Spring, his feet were dry. This Spring, for about a day, his feet were wet. His boots were soaked because the water was at his knees. Many had to abandon the idea of going for a ride in a Bateau Mouche because no boat was able to pass under the bridge due to the height of the water level. Is there a Zouave soldier in our aerodromes? What about the Enroute centers? Do we have any Zouaves in our Flight Information Regions?

Feet dry
Feet wet in February 2013
That we have no benchmarks in ATC have been made evident by the comments of Lord SOLEY at the just concluded ATC Global Conference in Amsterdam. A UK parliamentarian and transport expert, he lamented that "the functional airspace blocks in Europe (ICAO and EU) manifest the failure of cross-border progress; they are administratively functional (yet) practically dysfunctional (and that) ... more work needs to be done on people issues".  
We do not know if he saw CANSO's Global ANS Performance 2012 Report and ECAC's airspace complexity report for the same period. But both reports are still in the initial stages of the ATC benchmarking process. We need to hasten this process to ensure our survival at local levels of organization and in order to thrive at regional and global levels of organization.
Fabien LEPOIVRE (2004) of NEVAOCONSEIL a french consultancy, defined benchmarking in organizations as, 
"a cooperative attitude that allows the internal or external comparative analysis of: concepts, methods, tools, processes, products, services. It is based on the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative information and on the understanding of the culture of organizational partnership. It must be an integral part of the process of evaluation and constant improvement with the purpose of becoming and remaining the best" (translation by Paula Rachel MARK, March 2013).
Yes, benchmarks are the bases for global best practices in organizations with subsidiaries worldwide, such as in ATC. In our profession, the Zouave soldier pictures our establishment of best practices.  So far, we have examined complex traffic scenarios and levels of ATC productivity from a purely economic and technical perspective. It is time to start thinking outside of the box. Where do we start, and in which direction do we go? While we prevaricate, the Zouave soldier for ATC is waiting. And time is running out...

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