Separation Management (SepMan 2)

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Authors: J. Stephen Higgins
Kenneth Schulz
Ben Willems
Carolina Zingale, PhD.

Zingale, C. M., Willems, B., Schulz, K., & Higgins, J. S. (2012). Separation Management (SepMan 2): Human factors evaluations of conflict probe location and format and workstation display alternatives (DOT/FAA/TC-12/62). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


Objective: The En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system will continue to integrate new capabilities and features to assist controllers in managing increasingly high levels of traffic in the National Airspace System (NAS). The Federal Aviation Administration Human Factors Branch conducted a study to examine potential modifications to the system. The study included an evaluation of (a) the location and format of conflict probe notifications, (b) the use of 30-inch displays, and (c) the use of different pointing devices at en route controller workstations. This report summarizes the evaluations of the conflict probe and display alternatives.

Background: This is the second Separation Management simulation. The first simulation investigated the automation requirements needed to assist controllers in working en route sectors capable of accommodating 3-nmi (5.56 km) and 5-nmi (9.26 km) separation standards.

Method: Eighteen (12 retired, 6 current) en route air traffic controllers participated in the study. All participants managed high-traffic level scenarios under test conditions that varied the location and format of the conflict probe notifications on controller displays and that compared controller management of traffic using current displays and 30-inch displays. We collected system and participant performance measures and ratings of workload and performance.

Results: We did not find significant differences across test conditions for measures of performance, efficiency, and safety. We did find that radar (R)-side participants viewed a higher proportion of notifications when only the most imminent notifications were presented on their displays. When notifications were available on the R-side display, the participants tended to select them more often from the data block than from the Conflict Alert List. In the Display Evaluation, the 30-inch displays were rated more favorably by the data (D)-side participants than by the R-side participants.

Conclusion: Providing conflict probe notifications for imminent notifications on the R-side display and providing a 30-inch display on the D-side appear useful.