The importance of Quality for Air Navigation Service Providers

“My service has the best quality”, “We offer the best quality service to our customers”, “Our service is guaranteed by quality”. Have you ever heard that? Most probably you have. Quality is a word that we hear in everyday and in relation to many different fields, from buying a new TV, hiring a new internet provider, or even playing sports.

What about the Air Navigation Industry? Quality of service has been a subject for several years now and perhaps more related with Aeronautical Information Management (AIM), Safety Management Systems (SMS) and Flight Procedures Design (FPD), not to mention Service Level Agreements (SLA), but is that all?

Let’s develop a little further:

What is Quality?

Even though there are many definitions for Quality, a good starting point would be ISO’s definition:

“Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object fulfils requirements.”

This means that quality depends on the requirements of what is intended to be done (Good or Service) and how we achieve these requirements. This simple sentence implies a lot, and it brings the possibility to plan, do, check, act, and plan again to fulfil our goal.

 

 

Process in Quality

Basically, a process are series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.

In this way of thinking there are 3 basic phases:

  • Input: Where the goods, data, service or whatever we need to produce are collected
  • Process: Where the input is transformed into something new
  • Output: Where the final product is presented

 

Let’s explore examples of this in Air Navigation Services:

  • Aerodrome data is surveyed by using its own process. The data collected (output).
  • This output will be an input for AIS/AIM where a new AIP will be made.
  • The new AIP will be a new input for Flight Procedure Designers which will produce as an output a new Procedures and Charts.
  • This Procedures and Charts will be loaded into Aircraft’s FMS and ANSP’s ATM Systems.

This chain of inputs and outputs looks perfect in theory but what would happen if one piece of data Aerodrome data surveyed had a mistake and was not detected?

Garbage In Garbage Out

There is a concept mainly used in IT which states that the quality of the input determines the quality of the output. In other words, the quality coming out is dependent on the quality of the input.

The importance of this concept remains in that what we do in Air Navigation Services has direct impact on the Safety of the Operations.

Keeping Operations Safe

There are many documents from different organizations about how safety is achieved, but they all agree on that Quality is required for a Safety Management System to work properly.

One of the most famous models used in safety is James Reason’s Swiss Cheese model.

In the Swiss Cheese model, an organisation’s defences against failure are modelled as a series of barriers, represented as slices of the cheese.

The holes in the cheese slices represent individual weaknesses in individual parts of the system and are continually varying in size and position in all slices.

The system produces failures when holes in all of the slices momentarily align, permitting “a trajectory of accident opportunity”, so that a hazard passes through holes in all of the defences, leading to an accident.

Usually, an organisation’s defences can be described in 3 categories:

  • Technology
  • Procedures
  • Human Competence

This defences work as an input for the safety process, therefor it is fundamental to have an excellent quality on them.

How can an ANSP make sure that their input for safety will have the required quality

There are 2 basic ways:

  • If Technology, Competence acquisition (training) or Procedures are contracted from another provider, make sure that the provider has at least an ISO 9001 certification and not only a “generic” specification but with a specific mention in the required process.
  • If Technology, Training or Procedures will be performed in house, have these process certified.

INGENAV and Quality Certification

Ingenav has been certified in ISO 9001:2015 for its quality management system since 2016, and not just certified in a general way, but specifically in:

  • Design and Delivery of Training in Air Navigation
  • Consulting in Air Navigation

This means that what INGENAV does, regarding Training and Consultancy, has Certified Quality and will fulfil the customer’s requirements.

Moreover, since 2018 Ingenav is also certified as a Training Organisation for Air Traffic Control training in accordance with EU regulation 340-2015.

 

Instructor Booster workshops – Now also online.

A few years ago, I was contacted by an ATC academy with a request to help them with a number of objectives which included:

  • forging a stronger instructor´ team,
  • go beyond the minimum knowledge required (usually the instructor endorsement and classroom instructions techniques) and
  • to reflect on best-fit training delivery methods.

I then set out to create a workshop with these objectives in mind.

Now, we are fours years down the line, with eight of such workshops delivered to four European ATC schools. Five further workshops are already planned for between the end of this year and 2021.

The workshops are a mixture of facilitated sessions and presentations in which we go through a simple, but effective, model that says that to consider learning we need to consider 4 areas: Who, What, How and By Whom.

The who is the student, who has a need to learn, the What is the subject matter – or content, the How is the methodology and methods used and the By Whom is, of course, us the instructors/teachers/coaches.

We go through a reflective path to consider all these elements as the basic ingredients that make up a plate. One can say that there are as many learning experiences as there are plates and the trick is to dose the basic ingredients right. However, as anyone who has attempted a little bit of cooking knows, before dosing an ingredient, one needs to know what it tastes like and what effect it´s presence (or absence) and quantity will produce in the plate.

The results help those attending, who range from instructors to training managers and those responsible for training development to reflect about the fit of the learning experience to the ingredients they have: the type of students and the subject matter. It helps them think on whether adjustments to the methodology and methods are necessary and finally to determine their own needs to be an integral part of the recipe.

The feedback received is very positive. We step down the hamster wheel called routine (no wonder that in many languages routine (from road) and wheel are related) and start reflecting on what is working and what can be improved. We come out of the workshop with insight into our work and our needs as instructors. We also come out with concrete ideas on how and where to make adjustments.

This year brought a new challenge: These workshops were until now held in a face to face set up with a lot of team exercises and dynamics. With restrictions in meeting and in travelling, we had to take a decision to either postpone the planned workshops, and lose good time when actually reflection and change COULD take place, or find another solution. We decided to go online. We had to consider the number of participants and also most of the exercises and the dynamics in which they are done. The first such workshop took place a week ago with very good results!

As for me, each workshop is a learning experience. I do provide my ideas through the presentations and also challenge the status quo. I also learn a lot, from the day to day examples, from the insight that my fellow instructors provide and also come out energised ready to do more to improve the learning experience in our business!

A big thank you to our pool of instructors – we´ll be back!

With this post, we at Ingenav wish to thank our closely knitted pool of instructors who have helped us in the past years to deliver high-quality training services to our clients, with a very high rate of repeat business.

Until early March, and the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, our network of active instructors originated from 7 different European countries. Together, we were regularly delivering services to clients in 5 countries.

The dedication, experience and qualifications of our instructors are high, and so is the cross-fertilization that was taking place between our pool, all learning from what the other had to offer.

Thank you to all those concerned for your hard work. This tough containment period is hopefully almost over, the time to be back in action is drawing nearer!

We´ll be back!