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Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Probabilistic Safety Assessment & Management (PSAM)

Michael G. Stamatelatos
Michael G. Stamatelatos
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Harold S. Blackman
Harold S. Blackman
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ASME Press
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Recently, the workload of Air Traffic Control (ATC) has become heavier due to increase in air traffic demands. Especially, human errors that lead to both major and minor incidents are considered to be a serious problem for air traffic safety management. Human factor problems in ATC can be observed or tackled from various aspects. However, little has been known about the causal factors leading to human errors in the current ATC systems. Thus, we need to understand the details of basic functions of air traffic controller's tasks in the systems, in order to design more reliable interfaces or training programs for controllers.

ATC is a very complex process that depends to a large degree on human operator's capabilities. Design of advanced and efficient safety ATC systems for the future requires understanding of the nature of the interactions between the controller and the basic available sources of information. This research aims to make a model of the cognitive process of an air traffic controller through task analysis and to find out problems from a human factors perspective for improving design of the future air control system. In this research, task analysis was done by an approach of ethnomethodology.

Experiment and Modelling

We monitored behaviours of a radar controller and coordinator team for about 60 minutes while they committed to a simulation scenario in which they performed multiple tasks of handling up to over 15 planes at a time. The simulation sector is KANTO NOTH, and the subjects are real controllers with qualification for this sector. In the experiment, we recorded motions, sounds, and simulator logs as basic data for analysis. From these basic data, we extracted controller's action and protocol logs, and analysed controller's tasks in each situations.

Based on the results of the analysis, we made a detailed cognitive model in air traffic controller's tasks for En Route ATC systems from human factors perspective. We examined the basic cognitive process of the radar controller in general situation. Controller's tasks are restricted by geographical features of the sector, air route characteristics, control rules, etc. In addition, the controllers are highly trained to handle the tasks efficiently and safely in a very restricted time interval.

RADAR Controller can use very short time to make judgment for each situation. We predicted that situation judgment of air traffic controllers was done by routine match. We modeled the flow of routine matching in the cognitive process of an air traffic controller from the analysis result of the simulation experiment. In general, an air traffic controller judges the situation and decides the strategy when he / she recognizes some targets. We extracted 26 routines for the flight rout and nine for the route crossing point in the sector.


In this research, we examined the basic cognitive process of the radar controller in general situation. We constructed a model of team cognitive process and then a database for both the radar and the coordination controllers.

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