Comparing the Tower Operations Digital Data System

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Authors: Robert Muldoon
Todd Truitt, PhD.

Truitt, T. R., & Muldoon, R. (2009). Comparing the Tower Operations Digital Data System to paper flight progress strips in zero-visibility operations (DOT/FAA/TC-09/08). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The current experiment used a high-fidelity, human-in-the-loop simulation to compare the Tower Operations Digital Data System (TODDS) to paper flight progress strips (FPSs) during zero-visibility Airport Traffic Control Tower operations. Sixteen current controllers participated in groups of two. Each group received touchscreen and TODDS training before completing eight practice and eight test scenarios. The participants worked at both the ground and local control positions under four experimental conditions. The participants used either the Integrated TODDS (electronic flight data integrated with surface surveillance, weather information, and digital-taxi communications), FPSs with Airport Surface Detection Equipment – Model X (ASDE-X), Perceptual-Spatial TODDS (electronic flight data integrated with weather information and digital-taxi communications, but no surface surveillance), or FPSs only, to control airport traffic. The participants had a Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) display in all four conditions, but did not have an out-the-window view. Dependent measures included the number and duration of airport operations, number and duration of communications, TODDS usability, and participant opinion. The data revealed advantages for surface surveillance and TODDS. The Integrated TODDS provided additional benefits that may help reduce the risk of runway incursions, ease the flow of surface operations, and support the Staffed Virtual Tower concept.