Understanding and overcoming horizontal separation complexity in air traffic control : an expert/novice comparison Article - Mai 2020

Nicolas Durand, Jean-Baptiste Gotteland, Nadine Matton, Léa Bortolotti, Margot Sandt

Nicolas Durand, Jean-Baptiste Gotteland, Nadine Matton, Léa Bortolotti, Margot Sandt, « Understanding and overcoming horizontal separation complexity in air traffic control : an expert/novice comparison  », Cognition, Technology and Work, mai 2020. ISSN 1435-5558

Abstract

Humans still play a key role in air traffic control but their performances limit the capacity of the airspace and are responsible for delays. At the tactical level, even though air traffic controllers (ATCO) are trained for years, their performances are limited. In this article, we first isolated the tactical horizontal deconfliction task and explained its mathematical complexity. We observed through a simple experiment conducted on trainee and experienced ATCOs its complexity on random traffic in a part-task trainer displaying two to five aircraft trajectories at the same altitude. We compared performances of trainee ATCOs with experienced ATCOs using two different displays : a basic display showing information on aircraft positions and a dynamic visualization tool that represents the conflicting portions of aircraft trajectories and the evolution of the conflict zone when the user adds a maneuver to an aircraft. The tool allows the user to dynamically check the potential conflicting zones with the computer mouse before making a maneuver decision. Results showed that in easy situations (two aircraft), performance was similar with both displays and groups. However, as the complexity of the situations grows (from three to five aircraft), the dynamic visualization tool enables users to solve the conflicts more efficiently. Using the tool leads to fewer unsolved conflicts. Even if experienced ATCOs performed much better than trainee ATCOs on complex situations, they also performed much better with the conflict visualization tool than without on such situations.

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