Pilot-Based Spacing and Separation on Approach

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Authors: D. Michael McAnulty
Carolina Zingale, PhD.

McAnulty, D. M., & Zingale, C. (2005). Pilot-based spacing and separation on approach to landing: The effect on air traffic controller workload and performance (DOT/FAA/CT-05/14). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


This document summarizes the existing literature on workload and performance issues related to pilot-based spacing and separation, methods under investigation for managing increases in traffic. Multiple concepts are under development, all of which involve pilot use of a Cockpit Display of Traffic Information (CDTI) that presents data about nearby traffic (e.g., location, altitude). More advanced CDTIs include functions that alert the pilot to potential conflicts or provide guidance about flight paths or speeds. This document focuses on concepts proposed for use during sequencing and merging and on final approach. Some concepts are considered more basic in that they would involve little change to current procedures and require only basic CDTI functionality. The literature indicates that pilot use of a basic CDTI to assist in visually acquiring traffic and following a lead aircraft is beneficial, and that pilot workload is generally acceptable. Controller reaction to pilot use of the CDTI for these purposes has also been generally positive. More advanced concepts that involve the use of more sophisticated CDTI functions require modifications to current procedures and additional controller workstation tools. The results from most studies indicate that the advanced concepts require further development before they become operationally feasible.