Human-in-the-Loop Simulation

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Authors: Anton Koros
Pamela S. Della Rocco
Randy Sollenberger, PhD.
Todd Truitt, PhD.
Ben Willems

Sollenberger, R. L., Willems, B., Della Rocco, P. S., Koros, A., & Truitt, T. (2004). Human-in-the-Loop Simulation Evaluating the Collocation of the User Request Evaluation Tool, Traffic Management Advisor, and Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications: Experiment I – Tool Combinations (DOT/FAA/CT-TN04/28). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Free Flight Program successfully deployed the User Request Evaluation Tool (URET), Traffic Management Advisor (TMA), and Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) to a limited number of Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs). As deployment expands nationwide, several facilities may eventually receive all three tools. Before this occurs, it is important to identify any potential human factors issues that may arise due to the collocation of these tools at the controller’s workstation. In this report, we present the first of three high fidelity human-in-the-loop simulation experiments we conducted to evaluate the impact of URET, TMA, and CPDLC collocation on controller workload, situational awareness, and teamwork. We examined collocation issues with a “stovepipe” independent configuration where none of the tools were integrated or directly communicated with each other. In this first experiment, twelve Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCSs) participated as Rside/ D-side controller teams operating a high altitude generic sector using all combinations of the three tools. The most important collocation issue identified was that controllers had difficulty accessing important information on the D-side display when URET and CPDLC were both operational (i.e., display clutter). Although neither tool alone caused display clutter, both tools in combination made it difficult for D-side controllers to find the information they needed quickly. This was especially true for accessing CPDLC windows, which became covered when controllers used URET. Another collocation issue was that D-side controllers had to access TMA delay time information from the R-side display. Controllers thought it was important to have TMA information available on the D-side display where it could be easily accessed by D-side controllers. However, controllers were concerned that simply showing the TMA List on the D-side might add to the D-side display clutter. Good human factors design principles prescribe that users must have immediate access to important information and that critical information should never be covered. A “stovepipe” independent deployment of these tools will result in impaired access to timely information. The results of this study indicated that better efforts should be made towards integrating the information from URET, TMA, and CPDLC on the D-side monitor prior to deployment.