Creating an Investigator Course

Safety and quality are at the heart of aviation, and incident investigation is at the core of the industry’s principle of ‘lessons learnt’ that helps make aviation safer over time.

In 2018, Air Navigation Solutions (ANSL) required training in occurrence investigations for a number of staff and it quickly became clear that there was a limited number of suitable training courses available in the UK. Chris Kimber, one of ANSL’s investigators at the time, felt that there was a need for a hands-on course that gave good, practical training in conducting an investigation and writing the subsequent report. It was decided that developing a new course would not only help train ANSL’s investigators, but could be an opportunity to equip the industry with trained investigators, supporting positive learnings from incidents through thorough investigations across the country.

Chris contacted Cranfield University, world renowned as a provider of aviation safety courses, to discuss giving the ANSL course accreditation. Cranfield University had also identified the need for an ATM Occurrence Investigator Course in its portfolio and suggested a collaboration – taking advantage of ANSL’s expertise in air traffic management, and Cranfield University’s expertise in course creation and delivery.

In January 2020, Pam Laycock joined ANSL as the company’s Lead Investigator and immediately recognised the potential of the course. As a result, Pam and Chris met with Dr Leigh Dunn, a Lecturer in Aircraft Accident Investigation, and set a date for the pilot course for summer 2020. Unfortunately, Covid-19 struck and the country locked down. The pilot course was delayed while a new online version was developed, and a new delivery date was set for 1st February 2021.

Creating a theoretical and practical course in a virtual environment was a challenge. Pam, Chris and Leigh structured the course so that the candidates experienced the theory of ATM Investigation alongside a practical, hands-on simulation which enabled them to undertake a high-fidelity occurrence investigation, culminating in writing a complete investigation report.

The first joint ATM Occurrence Investigator was successfully delivered by Cranfield University and ANSL in February and was attended by twelve delegates from ANSL’s ATC and engineering teams as well as Jersey Airport.

Reflecting on the first course, Dr Leigh Dunn said: “When designing our investigation training courses, we are looking to teach the fundamental techniques of investigation fine-tuned to the specific industry that the delegates work in. This is what makes the partnership between Cranfield University and Air Navigation Solutions, with its in-depth understanding of the ATM industry, a perfect match. Together, we have produced a hands-on training course that will provide ATM investigators with the skills that are required to conduct thorough and credible investigations. I’m really proud of what we have achieved and we are all looking forward to working with our future delegates.”

For those taking part, as well as those running the course, the most enjoyable and insightful aspect was the investigative interviewing training that was part of the investigation simulation. This involved the trainee investigators interviewing professional ATM staff as part of the simulated investigation, which allowed the future investigators to practise the required engagement with ATCOs, managers, Air Traffic Services Assisstants (ATSAs), and pilots.

The feedback that Chris, Pam and Leigh have received from participants about the course has been overwhelmingly positive. Students reported that the course gave them the skills and confidence to apply their knowledge to real life investigations.

John Daly, who joined the course from Jersey Airport, commented: “The course tutors and specialist contributors provided a comprehensive introduction to the range of skills required to carry out investigations including analysis tools, interviewing techniques and report compiling. The course comprised a great mix of practical and theoretical training and is highly recommended.”

The next ATM Occurrence Investigator Course will run in May 2022 with future courses being planned. The course is currently planned as a ‘hybrid’ delivery to enable delegates to attend either in person at Cranfield University or online.

Delegates can request further information by contacting Pam Laycock and apply for the course here.

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