Future En Route Workstation Study (FEWS I)

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Document Number:
DOT/FAA/TC-08/14, I
Publication Date:
Authors: Sehchang Hah, PhD.
Randy Phillips
Ben Willems

Willems, B., Hah, S., & Phillips, R. (2008). Future En Route Workstation Study (FEWS I): Part 1 − Evaluation of Workstation and Traffic Level Effects (DOT/FAA/TC-08/14,I). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has projected a significant increase in air traffic over the next two decades. Compared to current traffic levels, estimates vary from 133% by 2015 to an average of 3 times (3X) by 2025. To meet the increase in demand, the Joint Planning and Development Office and the FAA are preparing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Plans for NextGen include increased use of advanced technologies for communications, surveillance, navigation, and decision support, as well as a change in roles and responsibilities of air traffic controllers and pilots. This first Future En route Workstation Study has investigated increases in traffic levels and integration of automation functions on the controller working position. The controllers that participated in this study experienced traffic at current levels and at increased levels of 133% and 166% of current busy sectors. The participants worked these traffic levels using either a workstation that was similar to their current environment with the availability of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) or a future concept environment that integrated several automation functions. The results indicate that when CPDLC and the additional future concepts were available, controllers could work 133% of current traffic levels (or 28 aircraft) at acceptable workload levels. When only Voice Communications were available, our workload measures indicated that several of the controllers experienced unacceptably high workload levels. At even heavier traffic volumes of 166% of current levels (or 35 aircraft), the bottleneck was no longer due to congestion of the voice channel but was likely due to the amount of information displayed on the ATC display.