ATSEP is confronted with multiple errors. A categorization of these errors will help them in understanding the situation in a better way with least possible delay.

use-cases-SMC-skyradarStarting with a general infographic on errors along the radar process chain by SkyRadar, the author proposes a generalized categorization. To comply with qualification requirements of EU Regulation 2017/373 and ICAO 10057 and to qualify ATSEP personnel across a broadest field of possible errors and system failures, trainers might want to create realistic use case scenarios covering all described categories. 

Generally speaking in any environment setting there can be different types of errors.  But in the Air Traffic Control Environment there can be Human Errors that are related to human capacity and ability to perform a specific task.  For such errors, Air Traffic Controllers are given vigorous annual training on Human Factors and various workshops are arranged to mitigate the impact of these errors through effective training.  At the same time another important aspect that cannot be separated from the air traffic control environment in other words it is considered an integral part of air traffic control services. This aspect is controller dependency on equipment to accomplish the task efficiently to achieve the goal of perfection in the discharge of duties.

The equipment in air traffic control services is related to consistent data acquisition, processing, and monitoring. The purpose of this cause is to ensure producing error-free information for air traffic controllers. This error-free information helps air traffic controllers to perform their task precisely in a way that there is no margin of error left.  You can take an example of an aircraft that is flying in the air on specified paths. The paths in the air are not provided with caution lights.  Still, this entire massive amount of aircraft is operating on their desired tracks precisely in a corridor of 10 to 20 NM with almost no margin for error. This all is being done with the support of electronic equipment.  Similarly, these electronic equipment are providing monitoring support for air traffic controllers to ensure standard separation between the aircraft.

The errors in this equipment can adversely impact the quality of air traffic control services.  All steps should be well aware of the types of errors that can take place in their technical environment. By identifying the types of errors the identification of route cause becomes narrow enough to save time for rectification.

As now we know that this technical support is helping in the provision of consistent collection, processing, and monitoring for quality measurement of different aspects related to the situation a head hence we can divide errors as follows:

Human Errors

These errors are related to the human factor. Sometimes due to different reasons an individual as an observer is unable to observe or calculate the reading based on the information being provided. So we can consider this type of error to be related to human judgment. But at the same time, such errors can also result due to an inappropriate choice of tool.  These mistakes can take place by reading incorrectly or reading an incorrect element. 

Random Errors

Sometimes the ATSEP has to face errors that are not clearly understood in terms of their root cause.  The reason for the lack of clarity originates from the fact that such errors occur out of an irregular pattern which makes it unpredictable. A random error has a lack of association with a normal pattern of a process which makes its diagnosis very difficult and even finding a solution sometimes becomes a hectic job for ATSEP. 

Systematic Errors

These are the errors that are associated with the functioning of an instrument. Such errors may appear due to malfunctioning in an instrument. Sometimes, even properly functioning instruments result in producing systematic errors. This happens due to the inherited characteristics of an instrument that are the outcome of materials being used in the manufacturing of such instruments. In the aviation industry, although all sorts of errors are important to be understood by an ATSEP, Systematic Errors hold prime importance for ATSEP while performing their duties.

These errors can be segregated into the following types:

Instrument Errors

These are the systematic errors that result due to performance of instruments.  The following are the main reasons for such errors.

a) Instrument Shortcoming

Shortcomings within an instrument produce undesired impacts on its performance. In air traffic control services different instruments are working in synergy to produce required information related to aircraft position, speed, level, etc to equip air traffic control officers to make the best decision based on that information. The accuracy of that information has to play a very vital role in shaping the action of air traffic controllers for the provision of quality air traffic control services. But any shortcoming can hinder this process of data generation and results in inaccuracy. Hence the decision made on inaccurate data will have an impact on the quality of air traffic control services.

 b) Instrument Misuse

Instruments work according to a said pattern. But sometimes operators of such instruments happen to use these instruments in an unintelligent way that makes them confront erroneous results.

cc) Loading Effects

This results due to improper use of an instrument for instance take an example of a voltmeter that is calibrated ideally. ATSEP takes this voltmeter and connects it across a high-resistance circuit. Under such a scenario the voltmeter may likely give a deceptive reading. But at the same time if this voltmeter is connected across a circuit offering low resistance under such a scenario it is expected that the voltmeter will give a very reliable reading.

Environmental Errors

These are the errors that result due to environmental factors that impact the performance of instruments and result in producing a systematic error. One classical example in this context is the rise in humidity to a higher level or buildup of snow has the ability to impact the performance of radio frequency.

Observational Errors

These types of errors result due to observational shortcomings.

If we closely observe environmental and observational errors we will find that they are showing an impact on the performance of equipment either through environmental aspects or through observational capacity which in turn results in an inaccurate measurement or reading. Systematic errors are related to instruments as a result they have a said pattern or direction that they follow.

 In the context of air traffic control services we can segregate the Systematic Errors as follow:

Program Errors

In this era of digitalization and digital processing, all equipment is backed by a certain type of software program.  ATSEP should be aware of the errors that may arise due to such installations so that they can better apprehend the confronted situation.

  • Functionality Errors 
  • Communication Errors
  • Missing Command Errors
  • Error Handling Errors
  • Interoperability Errors
  • Software Hang

Interference Errors

These types of errors are the outcome of disturbances in the environment caused by multiple factors that distort normal processing. These interferences are caused due to multiple reasons which are as follows:

  •  Other Radars
  •  Jamming FRUIT
  •  Load
  •  ACAS
  • ADS-B

Transmission Media Errors

Transmission errors can be considered media-related errors. No physical media can be considered a source for error-free transmission. Errors can be produced because of the interference offered by the media due to its physical characteristics or artifacts.  The transmission errors can be produced due to the following factors:

  • Cables 
  • Waveguides
  • Slip-rings
  • Couplers  
  • Phase Matching
  • Encoder
  • Gear
  • Azimuth Reset Pulse
  •  Azimuth Change Pulse

Transmitter Errors

As we know transceivers perform a function of both transmission and reception hence the errors produced can be categorized based on transmitter-related errors that are produced due to the following factors

  • Power
  • Pulse Shape
  • PRF
  • Power Drop
  • Stagger
  •  Mode
  • Synchronization With The Receiver

Receiver Errors

These include  errors related to a receiver which are produced due to the following factors

  • Sensitivity
  • Bandwidth
  • Channel Alignment
  • Saturation
  • STC Alarm
  • Monopulse Accuracy
  • Synchronization With The Transmitter

Processing Errors

In air traffic control services digital signal processing is one of the main activities that is taking place behind the scene. Factors that impact the process of signal processing have the potential to generate disturbances in a smooth flow of signal which results in errors. Some of the factors that are related to producing errors through interrupting digital signal processing in an air traffic control environment are given here as under:

  • Accuracy
  • Degarbling
  • Defruiting
  • Load
  • Delay
  • Resolution
  • Code Validation
  • Data Enhancement
  • AI Analytics

Power Source Errors

These are the type of errors that are related to the power source. These errors are internal to the environment produced due to malfunctioning or characteristics of the equipment.  The power-related errors produce due to multiple factors including instruments and power sources.

  • UPS related errors
  • Errors due to Power from Provider
  • Electrical Cabinet related errors
  • Lightning related errors
  • Surcharge Protection related errors
  • Fire Alarm related errors
  • Smoke Alarm related errors  

We have identified various types of errors that happen to make their appearance in an air traffic control environment. Identification of errors is always the first step towards rectification of the problem being faced.  After the identification of an error, ATSEP is required to follow a certain pattern to rectify issues being faced. A pattern will be specific to the error type.  In coming blogs, each error will be followed in a sequence. We will try to study them in complete detail for understanding the root cause for their origination and recommend best practices in the industry for rectifying such errors.

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