Air traffic controller working memory

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Authors: Daniel Garland
Earl S. Stein

Stein, E. S., & Garland, D. (1993). Air traffic controller working memory: Considerations in air traffic control tactical operations (DOT/FAA/CT-TN93/37). Atlantic City International Airport: Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center.


The Air Traffic Control (ATC) environment is characterized by a ,continuous sequ~nce of ever-changing, transient information, such as a series of aircraft being handled by an air traffic controller which must be encoded and retained, primarily, for tactical use (3 to 5 minutes) and secondarily, for strategic planning, This information is complicated by the limitations and constraints of human memory', in varticular, working memory. Working memory can potentially degrade performance. The primary objective of this report is to raise an awareness of the memory requirements of ATC tactical operations by presenting information on working memory processes that are relevant to ATC tasks, and the vulnerahility of these processes to disruption. This report focuses on developing an understanding of the role working memory plays in air traffic controller performance by emphasizing the constraints, and the factors that may overcome or or minimize memory loss of critical ATC information. 229 references are cited in this report.

Updated: May 04, 2012 11:21 AM