Air traffic control specialist visual scanning II
Robert C. Allen
Earl S. Stein
Willems, B., Allen, R. C., & Stein, E. S. (1999). Air traffic control specialist visual scanning II: Task load, visual noise, and intrusions into controlled airspace (DOT/FAA/CT-TN99/23). Atlantic City International Airport: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started an Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) information-scanning program a number of years ago. The goal is to learn about how controllers use information displays and develop techniques for reducing air traffic-related errors. This report describes a research project conducted at the Research Development and Human Factors Laboratory of the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center. Volunteer controllers participated in a real-time, air traffic control simulation of airspace modeled after their Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility. ATCSs worked two different levels of simulated traffic. Some scenarios contained incursions into their Class C airspace, and overflights provided visual noise. Results indicated that the ATCSsâ€™ workload increased with higher traffic loads. However, visual noise had more impact on their perceived workload when things were slower and not when they were already busy. An eye tracker recorded eye movements. The visual scanning data included fixations, saccades, blinks, and pupil information. Increased traffic loads decreased the number of fixations on the radarscope. The increase in task load seemed to divert the ATCSsâ€™ attention to areas other than the scope, most specifically the keyboard, suggesting they were spending more time updating flight plans and less time scanning the scope. Controllers developed scanning patterns that focused on the areas of highest traffic density. This may be why they identified airspace intrusions late or not at all in some specific cases. Such lapses suggest that intrusion targets must be emphasized with color, blinking, or some other means to draw the controllers attention from established patterns. This may increase airspace safety. This research provides greater understanding of how ATCSs use current information displays. The research results have potential for increasing future ATCS efficiency through improved display technology or application of new training techniques.
Updated: May 04, 2012 11:21 AM