NextGen ATC and Tech Ops Alarms and Alerts Evaluation

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Authors: Sehchang Hah, PhD.
Kevin Halman, Engility, Inc.
Brett Williams, Hi-Tec, Inc.

Hah, S., Hallman, K., & Williams, B. (2017). NextGen Air Traffic Control and Technical Operations Alarms and Alerts Evaluation (DOT/FAA/TC-17/61). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The main objective of this project is to present the effective ways of presenting air traffic control alarms and alerts for future NextGen systems. Because there has been no comprehensive survey on NextGen air traffic control system alarms and alert, we first made a catalog of midterm NextGen controller alarms, alerts, indicators, and notifications (AAINs) based on the input from NextGen program office personnel, NextGen system engineers, and air traffic controllers, and NextGen documents. We also created the air traffic control taxonomy because there was no previous taxonomy of air traffic control AAINs. Based on the taxonomy, we then refined the AAINs in the catalog with subject matter experts. For instance, we finalized the categorization of the AAINs based on the critical features of alarms and alerts such as urgency, time to respond, and consequences if not responded. To validate the presentation methods of the selected few NextGen systems, we ran a Cognitive Walkthrough with controllers from Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), and Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). We collected their opinions on alarms and alerts. Based on the results and human factors principles, we present effective alarm and alerts presentation methods for the future NextGen systems. In addition, we surveyed the current alarms and alerts of the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) that Technical Operations specialists monitor and control. For the Technical Operations domain, we recommend to devise a more effective way of monitoring and controlling alarms of ERAM at the Service Operations Center (SOC).