Flying is one of the safest ways to travel, with the vast majority of us never experiencing anything other than a straightforward, comfortable and safe journey.
However, in the unlikely event of something going wrong, I’m sure we’re all glad for the skill and training of the professionals whose job it is to look after us, be that the cabin crew, pilots or air traffic controllers.
It’s with these scenarios in mind that every year each of our controllers goes through what we call TRUCE – Training in Unusual Circumstances and Events. Some never have to put into practice the skills they hone at these annual refresher courses, but in the event that something does go wrong you may have only seconds to act, so knowing the right thing to do has to be automatic.
Late last year an airliner landed safely at Gatwick without a full set of operational undercarriage deployed, and in September we saw an example of the calm professionalism and teamwork that exists between pilots and controllers when a flight experienced an engine fire on the ground at Las Vegas. That kind of response is made possible because they trust each other and know they can rely on the training they’ve both had.
Our TRUCE courses are a mix of practical simulations and discussion, and can cover any scenario from very severe weather or a technical failure on the ground or in the air, through to a bird strike. Sessions include reviewing videos and RT from real incidents and sharing lessons and experience from the year, before jumping in the simulators for hands-on practice.
Many experienced controllers can attend STAC – Scenario Training for Aircrew and Controllers – as an alternative to TRUCE. This is a classroom based forum with pilots and controllers discussing similar hot topics and replays of incidents.
One of the most important elements of both STAC and TRUCE is how controllers can best support a pilot in the midst of an incident. It’s for exactly that reason that we invite professional pilots to take part so both parties can discuss the decision making process and anything that might be further improved.
Having pilots with us is hugely valuable in helping to understand each other’s perspective, while building mutual understanding so we can work together to reach a safe resolution.
Thankfully real incidents are rare, but we always have to be prepared. We run TRUCE and STAC courses throughout the year and if you’re a professional pilot and would like come along, we’d love you have you. Drop us an email at TRUCE@nats.co.uk.
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