Flying in Poland - in both controlled and uncontrolled area (if we have radio switched on) - we are the recipients of Polish Air Navigation Services Agency's services.
Managers of the sky
Air traffic control, Aeronautical information service, alerting service, planning air traffic flow above Poland, airspace occupancy coordination, reporting offices management, publishing and updating aviation publications are just some of numerous PANSA's activity spheres.
The company came into existence on April 1, 2007, taking the responsibilities of Polish Air Traffic Agency, operating within "Polish Airports" State Enterprise' structures. PANSA is the only "supplier" of that kind of services in Poland. Air traffic controllers and FIS informers are recognized by aviators only by voice, from everyday radio correspondence on aviation frequencies, and the picture of their work in ordinary economic class passengers' minds is usually shaped by Hollywood action movies. How does the work of people responsible for airspace safety look?
PANSA is the only company in Poland employing air traffic controllers. Just six hundred people perform this job in our country. The research shows that this is the most stressful occupation in the world. What is the biggest difficulty? A controller has to predict continuously how to plan airspace situations to provide efficient and, what is more important, safe flight for every aircraft. Moreover, a controller should be able to react properly to every most unexpected which can happen in his or her airspace. And the situation can change in a second.
Every controller is responsible for his or her defined area. The aerodrome movement is controlled by tower controllers. They watch safe aircrafts taxiing from the parking sectors to the moment when the pilot declares readiness for the take-off. They also take care of keeping the distance (separation) between the taking-off and landing aircrafts. Approach controllers transfer leaving aircraft to their "protection", providing efficient ascent and flight to appropriate route. It must not collide with air traffic of the aircrafts arriving to the aerodrome at the same time. Arrivals are led for the landing straight in such a way to keep required minimal distance between them. The third section, in which the largest number of controllers is occupied, is the area control. Using few radars scattered about our country, area controllers watch air traffic above Poland 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They provide safety to aircrafts using our FIR's routes, as well as aircrafts arriving and departing from aerodrome control areas of Polish aerodromes.
Apart from controllers' voices, flight information service (FIS) informers are to be heard in the ether. FIS informers deal with aircraft traffic in uncontrolled area. Their work can be compared to area control service, but they do not provide separation of aircraft being under their care. Instead of it, on the basis of radar data, they inform pilots about all aircrafts, which can collide with their plane, before they are in the pilot's range of sight. Another task of FIS informers is preventing pilots from entering inaccessible areas. They watch the boundaries of control zones (CTR), terminal control areas (TMA), prohibited areas, or temporary segregated areas (TSA).
FIS service must cope with vast variety of pilot's experience, and variety of aircrafts which contact them. Most of them are private and aeroclub's airplanes, powered gliders and balloons, but there are also paraglides, airships and passenger airplanes. In this area, military and police aircrafts, and rescue helicopters are also very common.
Flights' coordination, those privileged ones in particular, is usually a good test of cooperation of all services. It is common, that a crew takes an injured who needs to be transported immediately, i.e. from the place of an accident in uncontrolled area to hospital in a city which is in CTR. In such cases, the key role is to transfer information between FIS, Tower and Approach Centre efficiently, in such way that a tower controller and an approach controller are able to plan arrival and department traffic to the aerodrome, enabling rescue helicopter to perform a priority flight straight to hospital landing ground.
This is one example of hundreds of coordination possibilities - out of pilot's eyesight - which are done by particular air navigation services and flight information services every day.
Their task is to provide running, organized and safe air traffic.
There is also a multitude of people who work in PANSA and is not heard on the radio. They do not have contact with pilots and passengers. Shift leaders watch the work of whole air traffic management centre. Apart from everyday organization of controllers' work, they act an important role in crisis situations, coordinating operations and cooperating with search and rescue units (SAR). They are in charge of not only controllers and FIS informers, but also FLOW unit, which is responsible for holding controlled area's sectors capacity within limits. In other words, they try not to gather too many planes in the same place and time. These regulations would not be possible without the work of people on briefings and in plans of flight processing unit. It is worth knowing that every single flight in controlled area has a flight agenda in the air traffic system database. On the basis of such agendas it is possible to plan the air traffic intensity in every airspace area above Poland and Europe. Without data exchange network, it is impossible to deal with a unit planning air traffic in Europe (with its headquarters in Brussels) and, most of all, it would not be possible without the whole radar system working for PANSA. It uses the data from eight radars, placed in Poland. A large team of technicians and IT specialists watches the proper work of them. The works on introducing new operational system for air traffic control, which is going to replace the system working from the early nineties, is now in progress.
Another important part of PANSA is airspace management (ASM) section. This is ASM's duty to design and implement CTRs, TMAs and flexible areas like TSA or exercise areas (EA). This group of elements is bound to the other task of ASM - managing their activity. The effect is the information for the pilot, air traffic services and FIS, about which airspace areas are accessible for all pilots, and which exclusively for those who reserved them for themselves. The information about boundaries of particular elements of the airspace, and other vital information, is published by Aeronautical Information Service (AIS). The best known effect of their work is AIP Polska, updated monthly, aeronautical charts and VFR bulletin.
Polish Air Navigation Services Agency is a complex institution for complex tasks of taking care for systematic flow and - first of all - safety of air traffic. It's ambition is to be a match for the best companies providing such services, not only in Europe, but on the whole globe. Nevertheless, the most important thing is the satisfaction of the consumer - a pilot for whom it wants to be a good manager of the airspace he flies.