Human performance in air traffic control

Edwards, Tamsyn (2013) Human performance in air traffic control. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) are responsible for the safety and efficiency of all air traffic. It is essential that controllers maintain a consistently high standard of human performance in order to maintain flight safety. Knowledge of human factor influences on controller performance is critical to understand and mitigate threats to performance.

Previous research has largely focused on the association between single factors and performance, which has resulted in a comprehensive understanding of single factor influences. In current control environments however, the residual threats for incidents often result from the interaction of multiple human factors and the resulting cumulative impact on performance. This thesis describes a set of studies that investigate the relationship between multiple, co-occurring factors, and the association with human performance. Findings contribute further understanding of multifactor combinations and associations with human performance, and provide novel and practical recommendations for the mitigation of multifactor influences on controller performance.

A literature review, incident report analysis and survey of air traffic professionals confirmed that a majority of research approaches were fundamentally single-factor in nature, which is out of step with real air traffic management (ATM) contexts. In addition, findings confirmed that multiple factors co-occur in an air traffic control (ATC) environment, and are associated with controller performance. An off-line experiment using students as participants investigated the relationship between a set of human factors and the association with performance. Results indicate that several factors known to be associated with controller performance do co-vary and factors may interact to produce a cumulative Influence on performance. An interview study with en-route controllers contributed to an understanding of mitigation strategies of multifactor influences.

The research presented in this thesis has contributed findings that have both theoretical and practical implications. This research has addressed long-standing gaps within human performance literature and contributed new understanding to the complex field of human performance in air traffic control. Findings suggest that factors do co-occur in ATC, and interact to negatively influence performance, pushing controllers to the edge of performance. This research argues for a more ecologically valid investigation of real-world systems using multiple factors rather than the traditional one or two-factor paradigms. In addition, this research investigation has contributed novel understanding of mechanisms which may mitigate multifactor influences and has developed practical recommendations for aviation personnel that may be used to support performance, thereby preventing performance decline, with important implications for maintaining and improving safety within the ATC domain.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sharples, S.C.
Wilson, J.R.
Keywords: Air traffic controllers, Human factor influences, Multiple human factors, Performance support
Subjects: T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 28623
Depositing User: Blore, Mrs Kathryn
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2015 10:42
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 13:17

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