Visual Search and Conflict Mitigation Strategies Used by Expert en Route Air Traffic Controllers

Ricardo Palma Fraga, Ziho Kang, Jerry M. Crutchfield, Saptarshi Mandal
2021 Aerospace (Basel)  
The role of the en route air traffic control specialist (ATCS) is vital to maintaining safety and efficiency within the National Airspace System (NAS). ATCSs must vigilantly scan the airspace under their control and adjacent airspaces using an En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) radar display. The intent of this research is to provide an understanding of the expert controller visual search and aircraft conflict mitigation strategies that could be used as scaffolding methods during ATCS
more » ... ning. Interviews and experiments were conducted to elicit visual scanning and conflict mitigation strategies from the retired controllers who were employed as air traffic control instructors. The interview results were characterized and classified using various heuristics. In particular, representative visual scanpaths were identified, which accord with the interview results of the visual search strategies. The highlights of our findings include: (1) participants used systematic search patterns, such as circular, spiral, linear or quadrant-based, to extract operation-relevant information; (2) participants applied an information hierarchy when aircraft information was cognitively processed (altitude -> direction -> speed); (3) altitude or direction changes were generally preferred over speed changes when imminent potential conflicts were mitigated. Potential applications exist in the implementation of the findings into the training curriculum of candidates.
doi:10.3390/aerospace8070170 fatcat:w6ceqnymkja2bfa4c6dzix2kta