Application of research techniques for documenting cognitive processes in air traffic control

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Authors: J.A. Guttman
Richard H. Mogford
E. Murphy
R.J. Roske-Hofstrand
G. Yastrop

Mogford, R.H., Murphy, E.D., Roske-Hofstrand, R.J., Yastrop, G., & Guttman, J.A. (1994). Application of research techniques for documenting cognitive processes in air traffic control: Sector complexity and decision making (DOT/FAA/CT-TN94/3). Atlantic City International Airport: Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center.


Air traffic controller decision making is a key contributor to safety in the National Airspace System (NAS). Little systematic attention has been paid. however, to investigating the parameters of controller decision making or the factors that affect decision making in the air traffic control (ATC) environment. Because controller decision making takes place within the context of controlled airspace, it is necessary to understand the elements of that context as potential influences on decision-making outcomes. Previous research was conducted on sector complexity in the Great Lakes Region. The research documented in this report was designed to further investigate the elements of en route sector complexity in the Southeast Region and to examine the effects of those elements on controller decision making. Nineteen candidate factors were generated through the use of direct and indirect methods. Of these 19 factors, 11 had significant product-moment correlations, with overall ratings of sector complexity. The results suggested that the use of indirect approaches for knowledge elicitation did not prove to have any distinct advantage in terms of information yield over directly asking controllers for candidate complexity factors.

Updated: May 04, 2012 11:21 AM