I would like to have a look on the organisms that we consider as the “air police”, by this I mean, who controls the civil aviation activities, which are the regulatory institutions involved worldwide, who coordinates, who does what to make the whole thing work safely with coordination, order and safety. Two topics are together here, firstly the regulatory framework and also, the air traffic control.
Did you get stressed by looking to the pictures too? How do they coordinate this to avoid chaos???? Who ensures procedures and how do they control airplanes??
There are many institutions worldwide, each country is integrated taking into account international, regional and national organizations, such as:
Internationally the key instituions are:
–IATA is the International Air Transport Association for world airlines, with headquarters in Canada and created in 1945. It supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. Among its functions and priorities we can find: safety, security, simplification of the business (initiative that includes creation of electronic tickets, bar coded boarding pass, etc.), environmental issues, services (provides consulting and training services, accreditation to travel professionals) and it writes multiple publications and standards. IATA’s work importantly expanded. IATA has consolidated its position as the voice of the aviation industry in recent years, even though it has no legislative powers.
–ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organization, is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It gives standards in a very big extend to the indusrry, its sets the principles and techniques of international air navigation (city codes, communication, air traffic management, etc), it plans and develops international air transport ensuring safety and orderly growth, adopts recommended practices, defines protocols for air accident investigation and it is also develops guidance for environmental and climate change issues.
A momentum in history was the Convention of Chicago on International Civil Aviation, signed in 1944, which sets an open skies or freedom of the air policy, it prepared a framework for civil aviation. One of the achievements was the so called freedoms of the air, which states rights for flying within countries (for example, the right of a foreign plane to fly across one country, the right to transport people from one home country to another and viceversa, etc). The countries will sign bilateral or multilateral agreements, most of this agreements include: free market competition, pricing determined by market forces, equal opportunity to compete, cooperative marketing arrangements (like code-sharing) or safety and security procedures.
–CANSO is the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, it is the global voice of the companies that provide air traffic control, and represents the interests of Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) worldwide, the companies that handle traffic control in each country. Its members are responsible for supporting over 85% of world air traffic, members share information and develop new policies, with the ultimate aim of improving air navigation services on the ground and in the air.
–ATAG is the Air Transport Action Group, is a coalition of aviation industry experts focusing on sustainable development issues regarding aviation.
Regionally we can find so many organizations, but lets focus in US and Europe as an example:
–FAA: is the Federal Aviation Administration, is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation.
–EASA is the European Aviation Safety Agency, created in 2003 to conduct analysis and research of safety. It authorise foreign operators, gives advice, implementing and monitoring safety and certifies aeronautical products.
–Eurocontrol: is the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navegation. Founded in 1960, it is an international organisation working for air traffic management. It coordinates and plans air traffic control for all of Europe. This involves working with national authorities, air navigation service providers, civil and military airspace users, airports, and other organisations. Its activities involve all gate-to-gate air navigation services: management of air traffic flow, trainning for traffic controllers, regional control of airspace or collection of air navigation charges.
–Civil Aviation Authority, may adopt other names depending on the choice, but every country has one. It is a government authority in each country that overseas the approval and regulation of civil aviation. The country will make an Act for which empowers it to make regulations to all the activities related to civil aviation in that country. Among the aspects they regulate we can find: design and operation of aircrafts and ground equipment, licensing (pilots, engineers, airports, etc), standards for air traffic control, investigation of accidents, etc.
–Each country should have also a company, either private or public, that manage all the airports and aviation activities within that country’s territory, such as AENA in Spain or DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung in Germany or NATS Holdings in the UK.
All this complex net of institutions will set the framework in which the industry will work, the rules of the game. and now, having the paper work done, lets understand how the action happens! how they control air traffic.
Air Traffic Control
This nice picture shows the journey of a plane and the different systems that track its way, from the airport of origin up to the one on arrival. As you know, all it starts with the air traffic control tower at one airport, which controls the flow traffic of aircrafts on ground and a certain area of range within the airport, preventing colisions and providing information and other support for pilots.
The traffic inside the airport is carefully scheduled and calculated, to allow organising the flow of traffic but also to maximize it. There are slots to land and take off, taking care of the estimation of time needed from aircraft to aircraft, etc. If there is any problem there is a holding time, the aircraft will be told to wait flying until its given the ok to land. Even before leaving an airport, the aircraft can estimate and schedule with the arriving airport when the arrival will take place.
When the aircraft leaves the airport, the Aviation Route Traffic Control Center will take over. As you can see on the picture below, all the countries territory are controlled and divided in zones, so when the aircraft enters in each region, it will be monitored by each center.
The big question is, what happens when the aircraft leaves the country and sets to open seas? As ocean is bast, the amount of water covered by the centers is limited, so rather than knowing exactly where is the plane all the time, oceanic airspace controlles will have to estimate the position of the aircraft from pilot reports. While flying planes follow routes planned, they also fly in air roads, even though its open air, there is like fake motorways, fake roads where planes circulate. They also have systems to ensure separation with other aircrafts which pass or cross on its way.
Arriving to the airport of destiny, the plane will land safely after being given the permission to land and then will drive all the way to the gate, allowing the flow of passengers, out and in, on and on.
This draws a picture of worldwide management of air navigation. It is a complex system, an uninimaginable amount of work, investigation and passion, to be able to organise such a huge thing and amount of airplanes flying non stop, daily to more than the 50.000 airports worldwide. There are so many systems, hours of work, etc, all to ensure a safe and pleasant journey and to guarantee the flow of people.
Thanks for your time!