Belgian air navigation service provider skeyes reports again very good safety figures


At skeyes, all employees have the same goal at all times: air traffic safety. This has always been the case, but in recent years, the company has invested even more, not only in the systems (100 million euros between 2014 and 2019, a major part of which is related to safety projects) but also in procedures and human resources. Thus, in the Safety Unit alone, the number of employees has increased to 14. skeyes takes security very seriously.

Just Culture, which has been in existence for many years, is an important factor in skeyes’ safety policy. Each reported incident indicates how similar incidents can be avoided in the future. To measure is to know. The more data are analysed, the more lessons can be learned for the future.

Johan Decuyper, CEO: “We are seeing a slight decrease in the number of reports. That’s why we will continue to encourage our air traffic controllers to report each incident. The Just Culture principle is crucial in this respect. Air traffic controllers must be able to report each incident with the certainty that there will be no penalty for unintentional human error. I therefore explicitly reiterate our request to the Minister of Mobility to take a Royal Decree that anchors the principle of Just Culture and creates a legal framework for this purpose.”

Skeyes’ security policy is clearly paying off. In recent years, skeyes has always been able to show good results at the safety meeting. 2016 was the best year in the company’s history as no category A or B incidents were recorded for which skeyes was responsible. 2017 was the second-best year with only one Category A incident and three Category B incidents. In 2018, skeyes is doing just as well with the same numbers as the year before. Given the increase in the number of air movements in 2018, the result is even a little better than last year. The objective is obviously never to have incidents, but unfortunately, zero risk does not exist in air traffic control either.

Johan Decuyper: “Once again, we can boast excellent safety results thanks to the work done by our air traffic controllers, as well as by all the support services. Our joint safety efforts are an encouragement to do at least as well every year and aim for the same result as in 2016.”

But what is striking in the numbers is the rise in the number of incidents with drones. Abroad, much bigger incidents have already occurred. skeyes has taken a number of initiatives to keep drones out of airports and to put procedures in place should incidents occur.

Johan Decuyper: “The conditions have been tightened both for civilian drone flights and those organised by the state in controlled airspace. In collaboration with airport operators and police services, we will test a number of UAV detection systems in the coming months. In the meantime, we have already developed the ‘rogue drone procedure’, which defines the actions that our air traffic controllers must undertake if an unmanned aircraft is detected. In cooperation with specialised partners, we continue to search for increasingly powerful technological solutions to detect and remove drones.”

The figures in detail

2018 was the second best year in skeyes history with only one Category A incident (on 6 September above Spa, when 2 A320 aircraft came dangerously close to each other under stormy weather and dense traffic) and three Category B incidents (near Leuven on 23 February, neat St-Niklaas on 27 June and near Antwerp on 9 October when a commercial Embraer and two Belgian Air Force F-16s entered into a visual separation procedure).

In 2018, skeyes air traffic controllers reported 1,489 events.


In only 5.5% of cases (83 out of a total of 1,489), skeyes carries at least partial responsibility: 61 times for Category E (‘no security impact’) and 17 times for incidents Category C (‘significant’). The large number of Category E incidents is an indication of the importance of reporting incidents.


Types of incidents

In 2018, 93 violations of the controlled civil airspace (Airspace Infringement) were recorded. These are aeroplanes that entered without authorisation in controlled airspace or did not comply with the conditions of authorisation. This phenomenon mainly concerns sports and recreational aviation.


In 47 cases, the separation between aircraft was insufficient (in the majority of cases without impact on safety).


45 runway incursions were identified, i.e. an aircraft, vehicle or person was unintentionally in the protected area of a runway used for take-off or landing.


The number of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (UAVs) reported in controlled airspace continues to grow: from a single report in 2014 to 10 in 2016, 15 in 2017, 31 in 2018.


On the other hand, the number of incidents related to laser pointers has been decreasing in recent years. Last year, 83 incidents were reported again.


Thursday, April 4, 2019


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.