New Concepts for Tower Operations and Electronic Flight Data Management
Updated:11:01 AM May 03, 2012
The Tower Operations and Digital Data System (TODDS), formerly known as Electronic Flight Data Interfaces (EFDI), is an integrated tool to display aircraft location, electronic flight data, and other digital data for the ground and local controller positions in Airport Traffic Control Towers (ATCTs). We used a structured development process, a multidisciplinary working group, and rapid prototyping to develop two human-computer interface solutions based on an initial set of information requirements. TODDS is more than just a solution for replacing paper flight progress strips in an electronic format and it provides controllers with benefits beyond those afforded by an electronic version of paper strips.
Like existing electronic flight strip systems, TODDS uses a touch sensitive display to link controller positions and facilities, manage flight data, record controller actions and amendments, calculate the number and duration of delays, and assist in communication and coordination. However, TODDS also aims to improve controller efficiency and reduce workload and risk by creating a new paradigm for tower operations and flight data management. Currently, and with existing electronic flight strip systems, controllers must perform a number of tasks that stress human performance limitations. For example, controllers must shift their attention among multiple sources of information resulting in more heads down time and increased cognitive workload. Controllers must also mentally correlate flight data information with an aircraft’s position on the airport surface. This task in particular can lead to controller errors and runway or taxiway incursions when a controller forgets where an aircraft is located (e.g., the accident in Sarasota, FL in 2000 that resulted in 4 deaths). Controllers must also currently sort through irrelevant flight data to acquire the information they need. There are also a number of other tasks that tax a controller’s memory such as determining proper time separation to account for wake turbulence on departure.
TODDS affords a number of advantages to reduce controller workload and risk while improving efficiency. By consolidating information into a single information source, TODDS reduces the controller’s need to shift attention, reduces the cognitive workload associated with mentally updating aircraft position information, and increases the value of heads down time. Cognitive workload is further mitigated by providing timers, reminders, and notices of expired information. TODDS only presents the information that controllers need, when they need it, thereby reducing search time and reducing display clutter. The ability to organize information spatially helps controllers maintain awareness of aircraft position on the airport surface, whereas current electronic flight strips systems do not afford this advantage because they are constrained by strip bays. By connecting flight data with aircraft position and providing the ability to spatially organize information, TODDS should improve efficiency and lower risk during low visibility operations and also support the Staffed Virtual Tower concept.
TODDS includes two distinct human-computer interface solutions that are based on the same basic principles of design. Each solution supports both the ground and local controller positions. One solution capitalizes on surface surveillance capability, while the other solution does not. Both solutions provide support for low-visibility operations and the Staffed Virtual Tower concept.
We currently have functional prototypes to demonstrate and test our design concepts. To date, we have completed a proof of concept and initial usability test. We are currently expanding the capabilities of our prototype designs by integrating weather information, wake turbulence separation information, digital taxi communications, and taxi conformance monitoring. We are also implementing the means to accomplish tasks that tower controllers performs less frequently such as indicating and remembering when a segment of a taxiway or runway is closed.
TODDS can operate with any type of surface surveillance including ASDE-X, ADS-B, or Millimeter Wave Radar. In this configuration, TODDS uses the surface surveillance capability to indicate when an aircraft is occupying or stopped on a runway surface and to detect when an aircraft has departed. The touch sensitive human-computer interface allows controllers to directly interact with and manipulate the flight data. TODDS can also operate without surface surveillance capability. This design solution could be used as a stand-alone application or as a backup to TODDS with surface surveillance to mitigate the loss of surveillance capability. This design can be thought of as an enhanced version of electronic “shrimp boats.” In this design, controllers use the touch sensitive display to organize flight data spatially on an airport surface map.
We began examining the concept of electronic flight data in ATCTs in 2004. We conducted a literature review of task analyses, published literature, and recent field observation data to explore the basic functionality of flight progress strips in the ATCT. In 2005, we formed a working group comprised of ATCT subject matter experts, human factors experts, and software developers. Using a methodology based on The Bridge (Dayton, McFarland, & Kramer, 1998), the working group examined the most common tasks that ATCT controllers perform and we developed the informational foundation for ATCT electronic flight data interface development. We then established a smaller interface design team also consisting of ATCT subject matter experts, a human factors expert, and a software developer. The interface design team generated the two different interfaces based on the results of the working group’s activities. We conducted initial usability testing of the basic interface concepts during 2006. Based on the usability results, we are refining the interfaces’ functionality and expanding their capability. Currently, there are two patent applications are pending for the TODDS concepts.
Federal Aviation Administration
William J. Hughes Technical Center, Building 28
Atlantic City International Airport, NJ 08405
Fax: (609) 485-6218
References & Products
Truitt, T. R., & Muldoon, R. (2009). Comparing the Tower Operations Digital Data System to Paper Flight Progress Strips in Zero-Visibility Operations (DOT/FAA/TC-09/08). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.
Truitt, T. R. (2009). High-fidelity simulation to compare the Tower Operations Digital Data System to flight progress strips. In the Proceedings of the 15th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, Dayton, OH.
Truitt, T. R. (2009). An empirical evaluation of the Integrated Tower Operations Digital Data System. In the Proceedings of the 2009 Integrated Communications Navigation and Surveillance (ICNS) Conference, Arlington, VA.
Truitt, T. R. (2008). Tower Operations Digital Data System - Concept refinement and description of new features (DOT/FAA/TC-08/09). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.
Crutchfield, J. M., Hitt, J.M., Morris, J., & Truitt, T. R. (2007, April). Towards information requirements for airport traffic control towers. Panel presented at the 14th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, Dayton, OH.
Truitt, T. R. (2007). New concepts for electronic flight data management in airport traffic control towers. Paper presented at 2007 Worldwide Airport Technology Transfer Conference, Atlantic City, NJ.
Truitt, T. R. & Muldoon, R. (2007). New electronic flight data interface designs for airport traffic control towers: Initial usability test (DOT/FAA/TC-07/16). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.
Truitt, T. R., & Muldoon, R. V. (2007, April). Initial usability test of new concepts for electronic flight data handling in airport traffic control towers. Paper presented at the 14th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, Dayton, OH.
Truitt, T. (2006). Concept development and design description of electronic flight data interfaces for airport traffic control towers (DOT/FAA/TC-TN06/17). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.
Truitt, T. R. (2006). Electronic flight data in airport traffic control towers: Literature review (DOT/FAA/CT-05/13). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.