Skyguide puts safety centrestage in every single action and activity. Safety was maintained at a consistently high level in 2019. The number of instances recorded in which aircraft operating in skyguide-controlled airspace violated their separation minima was at a record new low.
Skyguide seeks to maintain and to further enhance the high standards of safety that Swiss airspace enjoys. It can only do so, however, provided its employees, who perform their work to the best of their knowledge and abilities, can report any errors which do occur without fear of punishment. Despite multiple court proceedings against air traffic controllers in 2019 (for further information, see Page 20), the number of internal incident reports remained broadly stable. Such reports were, however, less extensive than they had been in previous years.
Skyguide invested extensively in its safety culture in the year under review. The management increased its presence on the operating front, and conducted numerous discussions with employees of all occupations. To further strengthen its safety culture, skyguide also regularly awards a Safety Prize, which was bestowed (among other things) in 2019 for particularly good and comprehensive error and incident reports. The company also introduced compulsory training for all new employees on the principles and the culture of a High Reliability Organisation.
Any violation of the minimum separations required between aircraft is automatically recorded. Skyguide registered 99 such violations among the 1.3 million instrument flight rules flights which it handled in 2019. The number of such violations was thus again substantially below the average of the past five years, despite the higher volumes of air traffic handled.
Two fatal accidents involving Swiss military aircraft occurred in 2016 and 2017. The loss of two of their Swiss Air Force colleagues shocked and deeply saddened the entire skyguide workforce.
The military authorities published their report in summer 2019 on the findings of the investigation into the Pilatus PC-7 accident of September 2017. Pilot error was adjudged to have been the sole cause. The final report on the F/A-18 accident of August 2016 had not yet been published by the time this Annual Report went to press.
Just Culture endangered
A safety culture has evolved within the aviation sector that is rooted in reciprocal confidence and trust and promotes the open reporting of all safety-relevant events. This is known as a Just Culture. And it is the only way to ensure that safety is continually further improved. The current court proceedings against skyguide employees put this principle under serious threat. In 2019 three air traffic controllers were confronted with legal action. All three had been involved in incidents in which no persons were injured and no property damage occurred (for further details see Page 20).