You’ve probably never thought about how the performance of air traffic controllers is monitored. But it’s an incredibly important part of the work we do to keep our skies safe. In May, we launched the NATS Management of Competence System (or NMOCS), a single evidence-based system which is transforming the way we manage the competence of our controllers.

Competence monitoring is nothing new at NATS. In fact, our controllers are consistently assessed after they complete their training to ensure that standards are maintained. We are also required by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), our regulator, to maintain a competence scheme as part of our safety management system.

Our previous competence monitoring scheme didn’t provide a framework for competence to be measured against. This meant that while we had a scheme in place to manage operational competence, our various units including Swanwick Terminal Control, Swanwick Area Control, Prestwick and our airport towers all took slightly different approaches.

We are working towards a future where both of our centres (Swanwick and Prestwick) are fully integrated, using common air traffic management systems and tools. Adopting a consistent approach to competence is one of many ways we are working towards our one operation goal.

The NMOCS scheme has been in development for almost three years and has been designed to bring together the best of each of our existing schemes and practices. Its development was supported by input from over 200 of our controllers in addition to extensive research into other organisations and their competence schemes.

The final version of NMOCS is founded on four pillars of competence and helps ensure that we can:

  • Identify and provide support to controllers when they need it
  • Maintain a culture where people are supported and developed in their role
  • Provide assurance and confidence in our capability
  • Ensure compliance with our regulatory requirements

NMOCS adopts an evidence-based approach to assess controllers against a standard framework. This allows us to identify trends quicker and ensure that the competence of controllers is assessed against the common objectives in their training, for example coordination, separation and controlling techniques. This evidence-based approach means we can provide targeted support and coaching opportunities to support our controllers’ confidence as well as competence. With tailored training, we’ll be able to continually drive improvements in the safety performance of our operation.

The NMOCS scheme was introduced at our Swanwick and Prestwick centres in May. The next phase of the roll-out will be to our airports and is scheduled for early 2022, at which point we will have a common approach across our entire air traffic control operation.


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Varughese Koshy

Appreciated 👍



Peter pennie

How does it work in practice as there are many levels of capacity and many weather related mitigation’s? No jargon replies please



Bert Hayes

Interesting article as I spent quite some time as an examiner (Validity and Competence) both in NATS and CAA SRG, as it was before becoming SARG. A major concern in my experience deterioration or ‘slipping’ of competence that passed unnoticed by ATCO colleagues or local examiners. The random sampling of RT is good in creating an incentive to adhere to standard phraseology and provide evidence of good controlling. Not clear how you can ensure parity between Area and aerodrome/Surveillance monitoring as somewhat different techniques involved to achieve the objective.


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