Complexity in Air Traffic Control Towers

Full Text: PDF icon Pdf (1.10 MB)
Document Number:
Publication Date:
Authors: Jean-François D’Arcy
Victor Ingurgio
Anton Koros
Gulshan Panjwani
Pamela S. Della Rocco

Koros, A., Della Rocco, P. S., Panjwani, G., Ingurgio, V., & D'Arcy, J.F. (2003). Complexity in air traffic control towers: A field study part 1. complexity factors (DOT/FAA/CT-TN03/14). Atlantic City International Airport: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


This study investigated factors that contribute to complexity and their incidence within Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control Towers (ATCTs). Human Factors Specialists from the William J. Hughes Technical Center selected six sites representing a combination of high traffic volume, traffic mix, and/or converging runways. Sixty-two Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCSs) from the six ATCTs rated 29 complexity factors from local and ground controller perspective. The relative contribution of each of the complexity factors was site- and position- specific. High traffic volume, frequency congestion, and runway/taxiway configuration were among the leading complexity factors at all sites and for both control positions. This study characterized the differences between facilities in terms of the key factors and their incidence and summarized the interview data describing the nature of the complexity. An enhanced understanding of ATCSs’ decision making and tower complexity factors will help researchers predict the impact of automation and emerging technologies on controllers and ensure the continued safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System.