The primary goal of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system is to control accident risk. ATM safety has improved over the decades for many reasons, from better equipment to additional safety defences. But ATM safety targets, improving on current performance, are now extremely demanding. Safety analysts and aviation decision-makers have to make safety assessments based on statistically incomplete evidence. If future risks cannot be estimated with precision, then how is safety to be assured with traffic growth and operational/technical changes? What are the design implications for the USA’s ‘Next Generation Air Transportation System’ (NextGen) and Europe’s Single European Sky ATM Research Programme (SESAR)? ATM accident precursors arise from (eg) pilot/controller workload, miscommunication, and lack of upto- date information. Can these accident precursors confidently be ‘designed out’ by (eg) better system knowledge across ATM participants, automatic safety checks, and machine rather than voice communication? Future potentially hazardous situations could be as ‘messy’ in system terms as the Überlingen mid-air collision. Are ATM safety regulation policies fit for purpose: is it more and more difficult to innovate, to introduce new technologies and novel operational concepts? Must regulators be more active, eg more inspections and monitoring of real operational and organisational practices
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