Air traffic controller's performance in advanced air traffic management concepts
Jha, Pratik D.
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Air traffic management (ATM) concepts of the future are committed towards significantly enhancing the capacity and making flying even safer. Since, these new ATM concepts will change the roles and responsibilities of pilots and the air traffic controllers, it is important that their impact on safety be evaluated. Many proposed schemes include shifting the separation assurance function (maintaining safe distances between aircraft) to the cockpit or ground based automation; having pilots perform trajectory negotiation for conflict resolution; and assigning a supervisory role to the air traffic controller, who would make decisions in exceptional cases. Some initial research in this direction has shown that controllers have difficulty in maintaining situational awareness and to ensure safe separation decision support tools like "conflict probes" or resolution aid may be required. Human factors research is fundamental to ATM concept exploration as it takes an integrated view of human and system performance and distinguishes aspects that may work from ones that may not. This research is an effort in that direction and provides evidence about air traffic controller performance in trajectory negotiation concept where a tactical intervention for ensuring safety was required across varying proportions of free flying traffic and different types of decision aids. The concept of free flight forces a controller from being proactive to reactive. This change may be difficult when encompassed by a false sense of security that free flying aircraft will resolve the conflict themselves. In our study, these changes led to operational errors. Additionally controllers tended to handoff the aircraft much before the sector boundary and shed the secondary task of checking flight progress strips. Handing aircraft early could potentially increase the workload of down stream controller because they have to assume the control of aircraft much before it was anticipated. We did not find any differences in controller performance and workload ratings between different proportions of free flying aircraft. Providing negotiation information along with conflict detection aid had a definite advantage in terms of conflict resolution performance as measured in terms of how far in advance the conflict was resolved. However there were no performance advantages for providing a conflict resolution aid. Perceived workload did not vary across the aid condition and neither ratings for trust and use of various aids. Controllers were more confident about there performance without the aid in multiple aid condition compared to when only conflict detection aid was available. The implications of this research is in further exploration of ATM concepts, efficacy of decision aids, design of decision aids, and training needs assessment.