II. Operational Control in Practice


In Part I of this book, the focus was on providing the background to the IOC, the considerations behind planning and preparing for the operating day, the nature of regular and irregular operations and, of course, the people involved in running the centre. What is often under-appreciated or completely misunderstood is the level of intensity that typifies operational activity and the thinking processes that underpin problem-solving and decision-making processes.

The intention for Part II is to demonstrate how Controllers (and Dispatchers) in an IOC actually go about this process. Thus, the focus of the scenario chapters is to demonstrate the ways in which Controllers manage problems, offering an insight into the thought processes that might occur, how and why Controllers gather specific intelligence, discerning relevant from erroneous information, how they create options and then select one over another as the preferred solution to a problem. This level of knowledge is hard to locate, being difficult to capture and even more difficult to portray in terms of assisting others learning the task. Identifying a problem and its factors, and listing options and ideal solutions, is relatively straightforward. However, having an inkling into the mindset of the more experienced Controllers is the key to accessing this level of thinking.

The first of these chapters aims to bridge the gap between Part I descriptions and Part II scenarios, providing some clarity about the depth of communication and interactivity that typically takes place during disruptions. The following three chapters detail the high-level information gathering, thought processes, and action steps taken within the IOC in terms of disruption management.

Chapters 6 and 7 explore IOC processes with regard to two weather disruptions, while Chapter 8 demonstrates similar processes in an engineering disruption. These three chapters use anecdotally based scenarios to replicate representative operational situations, with explicit commentary complete with depictions of activity displayed on a series of progressive Gantt charts to help explain the ways in which the IOC manages each situation. To assist the reader to follow the scenario carefully, the appropriate Gantt chart is provided on the facing, or following page, while the text describes the gradual unfolding of an event with the current status of the scenario at key touch-points. To help identify IOC processes in train at any time, the following icons are used to inform of the particular process occurring at any time in relation to an event.

Finally, Chapter 9 provides a glimpse of the future IOC, the challenges facing it, and the tools and staff required to operate it.

Scenario-based Information Flows


Chapter 5 is written specially to help bridge the gap between the foundation chapters in Part I of the book, and the scenario-based chapters to follow. Figure 2.1 in Chapter 2 features the key internal relationships among players in the IOC. The range of functional areas included is not exhaustive and certainly varies from airline to airline. But the main purpose is to appreciate the numerous responsibilities and tasks that need to be undertaken in an airline operational environment, whether the roles are segregated as shown in the figure or whether they are contained within the control of a lesser number of individuals. The principal thrust of Chapter 5 is to demonstrate how just a few, selected primary roles might be expanded to explain the deeper levels of communication and involvement that occur not only among the players in the IOC but in terms of the supporting and complementary roles external to the group, such as senior staff, support staff, role specialists and external organisations. What also needs to be kept in mind is that time is of the essence, and as such, all these communications need to happen as quickly as possible. The selection of primary roles is reflected in Figure 5.1.


An engineering disruption occurs at the airline’s home base. The IOC has been alerted by Maintenance Watch to a technical problem with an aircraft. At this stage, the Engineers attending the aircraft cannot provide an ETS.

IOC Roles

The roles selected in Figure 5.1 present a greatly abridged version of the list in Figure 2.1, showing only a small number of the key functions drawn into this particular problem. Naturally, more roles may become involved in the course of managing a disruption, as will be shown in following chapters, but those disclosed in the current scenario focus on a few key areas. Figures 5.2 to 5.7 present these functional areas as ‘contact trails’ revealing some of the supporting roles and relationships. It must be taken into account that as all airlines differ markedly, the roles, titles, and the number of levels and hence ‘trails’ shown vary enormously. Doubtless, each of these figures could be greatly exploded, but they are

shown here to provide at least a basic understanding of some of these relationships.

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