47TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Arusha, Tanzania, 10-14 March 2008
WP No. 161
Review of Professional and Legal IFATCA Policy Relating to Unlawful Interference with Particular Regard to Controllers Training
Presented by PLC
This paper reflects ICAO and IFATCA policies and highlights the need for adequate training especially in regard to Unlawful Interference, In-Flight-Emergency-Response (IFER) and interceptions. Also attention is drawn to the situations arising from Unlawful Interferences against ATC-facilities.
1.1 This paper is the result of last year’s conference paper C.6.4 – Review ICAO ANC 11:
It is recommended that the following items be placed on the work programme for PLC for the coming year:
ANC/11 recommendation 2/9 – PLC will review all professional and legal IFATCA policy relating to Unlawful interference and with particular regard to controllers training to handle these situations.
1.2 Despite the ANC/11 recommendations have been reviewed last year by PLC, they were again inspected in the new light of training purposes, to set requirements for ATC-training; ICAO documents and IFATCA Manual were reviewed.
A common understanding of what is expected from an ATCO in these emergency situations must be found.
2.1 ICAO Documents
2.1.1 The main reason for the ICAO ANC/11 to handle this item, were the events taking place Sep. 11th 2001. It was found, that actual standards and recommendations were not sufficient for such kind of unlawful interference (UI).
ANC/11 recommendation 2/9 – In flight emergency response procedures for air traffic controllers:
That, consistent with ICAO Aviation Security Plan of Action and the ATM operational concept, ICAO consider developing in-flight emergency response and coordination procedures for air traffic controllers, together with training guidance, related to the distinctly different types and phases of unlawful interference. These procedures and guidance material should allow for different conditions which exist in States.
2.1.2 It was clearly stated, what is expected of an air traffic controller in a situation of an UI, but it was also concluded that these lack specification.
126.96.36.199 Annex 11 – Air Traffic Services, Chapter 2, 2.22.1 states that:
“an aircraft known or believed to be in a state of emergency, including being subjected to unlawful interference, shall be given maximum consideration, assistance and priority over other aircraft as may be necessitated by the circumstances Paragraph 2.22.2 requires that “when an occurrence of unlawful interference with an aircraft takes place or is suspected, ATS units shall attend promptly to requests by the aircraft. Information pertinent to the safe conduct of the flight shall continue to be transmitted and necessary action shall be taken to expedite the conduct of all phases of the flight, especially the safe landing of the aircraft.”
188.8.131.52 The Procedures for Air Navigation Services — Air Traffic Management (Doc 4444) states at 184.108.40.206:
“The various circumstances surrounding each emergency situation preclude the establishment of exact detailed procedures to be followed. The procedures outlined herein are intended as a general guide to air traffic services personnel. Air traffic control units shall maintain full and complete coordination, and personnel shall use their best judgement in handling emergency situations.”
220.127.116.11 Further, at 18.104.22.168, it is stated:
“When an emergency is declared by an aircraft, the ATS unit should take appropriate and relevant action as follows: … b) decide upon the most appropriate type of assistance which can be rendered … d) provide the flight crew with any information requested as well as any additional relevant information, such as details on suitable aerodromes, minimum safe altitudes, weather information.”
22.214.171.124 Additionally Doc 4444 states at 126.96.36.199 that:
“Air traffic services personnel shall be prepared to recognize any indication of the occurrence of unlawful interference with an aircraft.”
2.1.3 It is seen to be most vital, that:
“air traffic controllers become aware of all aspects of the situation as soon as possible and pass essential information to senior ATS personnel. These types of situations can rapidly change from being a civil emergency to one of significance to national defence and lives on ground.”
2.1.4 Problems are identified:
“in controllers’ awareness of loss of radio communication and deviation from intended flight path to differentiate between operational or technical causes and incidents potentially attributable to UIs.
While it is critical, that any delay in air traffic controller awareness is minimized, it is also important that no pre-emptive or misinformed action be taken by the controller, and decisions taken are carefully considered, deliberate and certain.”
2.1.5 Under 2.11 it is clearly stated, that:
“in view of the potentially traumatic situations that may occur, is the need for psychologically based air traffic controller training designed to increase the controllers’ own ability to cope and also enable controllers to assist flight crews confronted with these extraordinary emergencies. Lives may be dependent not only on the development of appropriate in-flight emergency procedures, but also on controller aptitude in applying procedures and in coordinating with flight crews and other parties in a detached, yet sensitive, way that encourages a cooperative, calculated and effective response to this most demanding of airborne emergencies.”
2.1.6 ICAO ANC/11 –WP/157 writes that:
For timely analysis and response for effective handling of the extreme type of situation of unlawful interference, air traffic controllers would need to be adequately trained and provided with necessary facilities, supported by well-defined guidelines and procedures to meet such operational contingencies in real time. Any delay in reaction or misjudgement leading to improper or wrong reaction would be equally disastrous. Handling of hijacked aircraft to protect strategic targets against attack from such aircraft may add complexity to the air traffic control task.
188.8.131.52 It is expected that:
Civil ATC can no longer handle and terminate the security-related situation in flight and would require intervention of military units to deal with the situation. Such a contingency would lead to a situation where normal air traffic continues under the control of civil ATC, while the control of suspect aircraft is transferred to military control within the same airspace.
2.4 Under such situations, ensuring safety of normal air traffic under the control of civil ATC, while the suspect aircraft is simultaneously handled in the same airspace under military control, becomes a very critical function for the civil air traffic controllers. The situation needs to be addressed through the establishment of international guidelines.
2.1.7 No policy or statements were found within ICAO documents on UI against ATC-facilities.
2.2 IFATCA policy
Understanding the above mentioned requirements that are set for air traffic controllers, the following IFATCA professional policies were reviewed:
- “Unlawful Interference with international civil aviation facilities” page 4441
- “Model of employment agreement” page 41A1 ff “ATC systems” page 4123
- “Policy Document on Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft and unlawful interference with Civil Aviation and its Facilities” page 44-B1 ff.
- “Policy relating to ATC training” page 4301 ff.
- “Policy document on training” page 43-A01 ff.
2.2.1 “Unlawful Interference with international civil aviation facilities”
IFATCA policy is:
|4.1. ATC personnel are entitled to maximum security with respect to the safeguarding of personal life, operational environment and the safety of aircraft under their control. (Acapulco 90.C.12, amended Christchurch 93.C.14).
4.2. If, during unlawful interference with Civil Aviation, the appropriate authorities instruct the Controller to deviate from, or violate, the ICAO rules, he shall in no way be held legally responsible for carrying out such an order (Acapulco 90.C.13, confirmed Christchurch 93.C.15).
4.3. All orders which imply a deviation from the established air traffic rules shall be conveyed through the appropriate authorities, normally the immediate superior, and always through the authority responsible for the provision of Air Traffic Services. Such orders shall always be issued in written form, clearly identifying their origin and authority, and retained for investigative purposes (Christchurch 93.C.16).
4.4. The Air Traffic Controller on duty shall be granted relief from his working position when the conditions stated in para. 4.3 above are not followed, or when he considers the content of the order wrong or criminal (Christchurch 93.C.17).
4.5. During unlawful interference against ATC facilities, or its threat, services may be withdrawn. Measures shall be included in national or international contingency procedures, designed in such a manner, to ensure there will be minimal disruption of service (Christchurch 93.C.18).
4.6. Member Associations shall also urge their governments to ratify the existing protocols, conventions and treaties on these matters, to make them available to whom it concerns and to refrain from any course of action contrary to those rules (Christchurch 93.C.19).
4.7. Member Associations should seek formal agreement on the conduct of an Air Traffic Controller during situations of unlawful interference and the adoption of contingency procedures during such situations (Christchurch 93.C.20).
4.8 IFATCA will undertake, through its Executive Board, to transmit the contents of this policy to the appropriate international organisations, namely the United Nations, ICAO and the ILO, and also regional organisations who may be concerned with these matters (Christchurch 93.C.21).
2.2.2 “Model of employment agreement”
Page 41A6 states:
|(a) The employer is responsible for providing adequate security systems and procedures in order to safeguard the employee working within the air traffic control facility concerned.
(b) The employee will not be held legally responsible for carrying out orders during unlawful interference with civil aviation facilities which deviate from or violate ICAO rules. Such orders will be given in writing to the employee’s immediate superior, and the originator will in such cases be clearly identified.
(c) The employee will have the right to be temporarily exempted from operational duty after having been involved in a case of unlawful interference. The assignment to non-operational duties is voluntary and the employee can at his or her own wish to return to operational duty when feeling physically and mentally fit. During such temporary exemptions from operational duty, the employee will receive payment as if he or she was performing duty as an operational air traffic controller.
2.2.3 “ATC Systems”
Page 4123 states under 2.4.4 that:
|“Controllers should be given initial and recurrent training in degraded mode operations of their equipment.”|
2.2.4 “Policy Document on Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft and unlawful interference with Civil Aviation and its Facilities”
This document is explaining in further detail the above mentioned policy and is added as Annex A for readers’ convenience.
2.2.5 “Policy relating to ATC training”
The following policy can be found that relates to Unlawful interference:
|4. EXAMINATIONS AND VALIDITY OF LICENCE
4.5. Automatic Dependant Surveillance (ADS) Control Rating
4.5.2. The training syllabus should inter alia contain instruction in:
|5. TRAINING AFTER LICENSING
5.1. Refresher Courses
5.1.4. Emergency training, including In Flight Emergency Response (IFER) and coordination training and handling of Unlawful Interference situations should be part of the refresher training (Geneva 01.C.9, amended Istanbul 07.C17).
2.2.6 “Policy document on training”
184.108.40.206 Additional to explanations on the policy on ATC-training this document holds the following paragraphs:
|“Special Circumstances Training
One aspect of training that should not be neglected is that relating to unusual situations i.e. ATC System malfunctions. It is felt that whilst such occurrences may be infrequent, when they do occur they do so without warning and often at a time that requires prompt and timely action by the controller if the situation is to remain safe. Controllers must know thoroughly the likely results of any system failure and the correct action to take to avoid a worsening of the situation.
“Whatever the ATC environment, controllers should receive suitable, regular training on the published back-up procedures which would be put into operation in the event of a system failure.””
2.3 General Discussion
2.3.1 Talking about Unlawful Interference, it must be differentiated between:
- Seizure of aircraft (hijacking, bomb threat) and
- Unlawful interference against ATC facilities, further
- Equipment (radar, data-, voice- communications, navaids)
- ATC units (ACC, APP, tower)
- Other facilities affecting safe ATM operations (e.g. runway lights, power supply)
2.3.2 Seizure of aircraft
220.127.116.11 The seizure of aircraft means always a state of emergency. IFATCA does have policy on Emergency training, and has added the recommendation to include training on In-Flight Emergency response (IFER) in refresher training.
18.104.22.168 PLC is of the opinion that IFER should be part of ab-initio training too.
2.3.3 Unlawful interference against ATC-facilities
22.214.171.124 Despite ICAO states in WP/23 of ANC/11 that all 16 Annexes will be reviewed with consideration taking into account:
Reinforced protection of the air navigation system against unlawful interference and protection of sensitive data. This includes the restriction of access to installations, the protection of facilities and the elimination/mitigation of the possibility of tampering with critical aeronautical systems and data bases.
126.96.36.199 ATC-facilities remain very vulnerable and an easy goal for attacks. Additionally to overcome this situation, countermeasures must be taken on the working environment and working methods of air traffic controllers. In case of unlawful interference, ATCOs must handle traffic situations safely when systems are downgraded by failure of Surveillance or Communication with no advance warning. These situations may arise very rarely, but the impact is tremendous. Situations can arise, where a withdrawal of service must be considered. This might have a serious impact on controllers’ abilities.
188.8.131.52 PLC is of the opinion that the above mentioned arguments shall be considered when setting up fallback procedures. These fallback procedures must be trained in simulators before On-job-training starts and should be part of refresher training.
2.3.4 Unlawful Interference against ATC units
184.108.40.206 The security of ATC-facilities and OPS-rooms should be of highest priority for Air navigation service providers and authorities. Aviation being a global issue, many situations could arise where a serious threat against an operational ATC location can be considered.
220.127.116.11 As these situations may vary from bomb-threatening to hostage-taking, all leading to extremely dangerous situations, not only for the controllers directly involved, but also for the humans aboard the controlled aircraft and the ground, special precautions must be taken.
18.104.22.168 It can be difficult to provide adequate training to handle those situations.
22.214.171.124 Again a withdrawal of service is likely and procedures, including facility evacuation, should be established and trained properly.
2.3.5 Unlawful interference with other ATC-facilities
126.96.36.199 As the number of possible attacks against other ATC-facilities is beyond controllers influence, security considerations should be taken when constructing or using these facilities (i.e. Independent power supply, sufficient back up).
188.8.131.52 Vulnerability and possible abuse should be considered when introducing new technologies (e.g. small Mode-S-receiver to determine the exact position and identity of ACFT in real-time can be purchased easily by everybody). In addition to technical countermeasures, ATCOs should be made aware of the possible external abuse of ATC equipment.
3.1 ICAO Documents state themselves not to be satisfactorily clear and precise on how air traffic controllers should be prepared for unlawful interferences. Additionally ICAO has no policy on unlawful interference against ATC facilities.
3.2 PLC believes that the IFATCA policies on Unlawful Interference are adequate, despite many recommendations are referring to national procedures and protocols.
3.3 The training section of the IFATCA Manual is missing training on fallback procedures in general, and in regard to unforeseeable situations in special, therefore existing policy from page 4123 – ATC systems should be inserted.
3.4 Furthermore PLC recommends that IFER-training be made available in ab initio classroom and simulator training in addition to refresher training.
3.5 As the seizure of aircraft mostly induces interception with military aircraft, special attention should be given to those situations during training.
3.6 PLC is of the opinion, that adequate training on hostage or bomb-threat situations is difficult to provide; therefore maximum priority must be given to the security of all ATC employees and ATC facilities.
3.7 Finally PLC is of the opinion that it is important to consider protection from “third party” interference of ATC equipment either aboard an aircraft or on ground when designing and introducing new technologies and precautionary measures are taken.
4.1 It is recommended that following be inserted in the IFATCA Manual on page 4323:
2.7 Emergency Training
2.7.1 Emergency training, including In Flight Emergency Response (IFER) and coordination training and handling of Unlawful Interference situations should be part of ab-initio and refresher training (Geneva 01.C.9, amended Istanbul 07.C17),
and following paragraph on page 4351 be amended to read:
5.1.4. Emergency training, including In Flight Emergency Response (IFER) and coordination training and handling of Unlawful Interference situations should be part of ab-initio and refresher training (Geneva 01.C.9, amended Istanbul 07.C17).
4.2 It is recommended that following be inserted in the IFATCA Manual on page 4323:
2.8 Degraded Mode Operations
2.8.1 Controllers should be given initial and recurrent training in the degraded mode operations of their equipment.
4.3 It is recommended that following be inserted in the IFATCA Manual on page 4123:
2.4.3. When designing and introducing new ATM-equipment the vulnerability and possible abuse of this equipment should be considered, and precautionary measures should be taken.
and the following items be renumbered.
ICAO DOC 4444.
ICAO Annex 11.
IFATCA Technical & Professional Manual.
Annex A – Policy Document on Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft and Unlawful Interference with Civil Aviation and its Facilities
IFATCA, established in 1961, is a non-profit, non-political professional federation having as its main objectives the safety, efficiency and regularity of international air navigation, assists and advises in the development of orderly systems of air traffic control. In order to achieve these objectives, the Federation closely cooperates with national and international aviation authorities, sponsors and supports the passage of legislation and regulations which will increase the safety of air navigation and safeguard the integrity of its members. Bearing in mind the controllers’ fundamental responsibility to preserve safety in the air and deriving authority from its constitution, IFATCA adopts the following policy document as a tool designed to highlight the basic policies set out in the Manual on this subject.
2. Policy Document
ATC personnel are entitled to maximum security with respect to the safeguarding of personal life, operational environment and the safety of aircraft under their control;
IFATCA endeavours to formulate some form of machinery by which it will effectively support its member controllers who assist aircraft victims of unlawful interference and as a result may have to act contrary to their administrative directions. IFATCA insists that it is the duty of every controller to provide all assistance possible to relieve the occupants of an aircraft in that situation from their ordeal and ensure a safe landing as soon as possible.
If during unlawful interference with civil aviation, the appropriate authorities instruct the Controller to deviate from or violate the ICAO rules, he shall in no way be held legally responsible for carrying out such an order. All orders which imply a deviation from the established air traffic rules shall be conveyed through the appropriate authorities, normally the immediate superior and always through the authority responsible for the provision of Air Traffic Services. Such orders shall always be issued in written form, clearly identifying their origin and authority, and retained for investigative purposes.
The Air Traffic Controller on duty shall be granted relief from his working position when the conditions stated above are not followed, or when he considers the content of the order wrong or criminal. During unlawful interference against ATC facilities or its threat, services may be withdrawn. Measures shall be included in national or international contingency procedures, designed in such a manner to ensure there will be minimal disruption of service.
According to the aims and objectives of his profession, the controller is required to sustain safety in the air and in cases of aircraft in emergency he is obliged to give those aircraft priority for landing. No doubt an aircraft victim of unlawful interference is one in emergency requiring immediate assistance. However, if it is quite clear that under normal circumstances a controller who acts according to instructions sees any responsibility arising out of such instructions automatically shifted to his immediate superiors (since only civil liability is, in principle, involved), when an aircraft victim of unlawful interference is involved criminal court will necessarily be involved and hence a controller who deviates from the ICAO rules – e.g. refusing landing clearance -, even when obeying orders, may be found criminally liable according to international law and many national laws, if in his opinion such order was wrong or criminal. The compliance with superior orders will then serve only as a mitigating factor. Furthermore, other forms of unlawful interference may occur that do not involve direct action against aircraft (e.g. bomb attack against an ATC facility, terrorist attack, damaging or destruction of air traffic control equipment or air navigation facilities), but also impair the safe operation of flights. In both cases, the only way to ensure that the principles stated in IFATCA policy (namely the principle that the controller is entitled to achieve the maximum security regarding safeguarding personal life, operational environment and the safety of the aircraft under his control and the principle that the controller shall be granted indemnity for the results of actions taken in obedience to direct orders) will have some practical validity is to seek for agreement as to those principles, for the following reasons.
– Once a controller departs from or infringes the established air traffic rules, that fact can always be submitted to a court in terms of negligence, in the form of non-compliance with existing rules, even if obeying direct orders, unless the exception is clearly defined in a document with legal value (e.g. labour contract).
– It is also frequent that in these type of situations, police authorities, Home Office or even the Government intervene and conduct the whole situation. However, since such authorities are not prepared to understand the technical implications of their intended actions, it is essential that their orders are “filtered” through someone who has the technical expertise and at the same time has a clear position on the chain of command.
– The request for written form is a guarantee that the content of the order won’t be object of court controversy; accordingly, such written order should be issued “on the spot” and only when that is not possible should it be issued afterwards.
– The right to be granted relief aims at exempting the controller from any criminal liability without falling under disciplinary action. It must also be made clear that this principle includes the right to refuse relief by someone who has not the appropriate valid ratings or someone other than a controller.
– The need for contingency planning against these kinds of situations is vital not only to protect the controllers and the operational environment but also the aircraft, passengers, crews and ground facilities.
Member Associations shall also urge their Governments to ratify the existing protocols, conventions and treaties on these matters, to make them available to whom it concerns and to refrain from any course of action contrary to those rules.
IFATCA encourages States to enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements on the problems raised by unlawful interference with civil aviation facilities and unlawful seizure of aircraft hoping that an international instrument will be made available through which the States will be given the choice of either complying with its provisions or face the consequences. Such instrument should, in addition, not only proscribe unlawful seizure of aircraft and unlawful interference with civil aviation facilities serving international air traffic, but also treat it as an international crime and as a result, the author of such action as an international criminal. This position has been made known in the past by IFATCA, both to the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Still, the present status is that:
– the existing international agreements concentrate exclusively on security at international airports ignoring the ATC facilities that are not located at international airports, not to mention air navigation aids that are not located at international airports;
– even the existing agreements have not been signed by all States and therefore cannot be used as guidance since they are ineffective in a great number of countries;
– there is absolutely no reference to the action required from the Controller during or after such occurrences;
– several countries have not yet established basic security measures outlined in international conventions, such as the establishment of security areas surrounding airports and air navigation facilities, preventing unauthorised personnel to have access to areas close to parked aircraft or Air Traffic Control premises; establishment of scrutiny points in the airports, with a clear indication of its existence to the general public; imposition upon operators to adopt security measures, especially regarding “carry-on” baggage. This situation is obviously unsatisfactory and even potentially dangerous, calling for the best effort of the Federation, the Member Associations and individual members in order to achieve substantial improvement in the near future.
Member Associations should seek formal agreement on the conduct of an Air Traffic Controller during situations of unlawful interference and the adoption of contingency procedures during such situations.
IFATCA will undertake, through its Executive Board, to transmit the contents of this policy to the appropriate international organisations, namely the United Nations, ICAO and ILO and also regional organisations who may be concerned with this matter.
IFATCA requests the appropriate international organisations to condemn all actions contrary to the rules established in the Chicago Convention and its Annexes. IFATCA believes that the UN Security Council is in a position to call for international action against States which default from the objectives of air navigation safety or depart from the established rules, taking such actions as refusal to grant Air Traffic Control service, refusal to grant landing clearance to aircraft object of unlawful interference or deliberately rendering unserviceable air navigation and/or landing aids to such flights. It is also IFATCA’s view that such actions may frustrate the criminals and cause them to harm crew and passengers and create unnecessary hazard to other traffic.
IFATCA also encourages national authorities and international bodies to take measures against Sates which tend to harbour the authors of crimes of unlawful interference with aircraft, including, if needed, the suspension of air services to and from such countries. Where States are reluctant to punish the authors of such crimes, IFATCA supports that extradition should be requested to the State of the aircraft’s registry. IFATCA expects the appropriate international organisations to encourage the establishment of special bodies to deal with these types of situations and strongly recommends national authorities to consult with the organisations involved in civil aviation before implementing measures dealing with this matter in order to ensure that adequate air traffic procedures are carried out and obeyed to. The Federation’s primary task on these issues is to promote standards additional to those stipulated by ICAO and to standardise procedures and phraseology applicable in such situations. The results of such work should be submitted by the Federation and the Member Associations to the appropriate international organisations, national Governments, airspace users and other organisations involved in civil aviation in the best spirit of co-operation.
Last Update: September 29, 2020