Ergonomics in Air Traffic Control


Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a vital part of ensuring safe flight, allowing for pilots to safely transport passengers and/or cargo. With human beings involved within ATC, the area of human factors must be carefully researched in order for managers to be able to conduct a safe ATC operation. For more information regarding Human Factors in Air Traffic Control, see this link.

Ergonomics in ATC

As ATC is not fully automated, human beings are required to interact with specialised equipment in order to direct traffic in, around and between aerodromes. Thus, the area of ergonomics must be considered when designing ATC towers and equipment for human use.

Ergonomization is the process of adapting equipment to its human operator, and this is critical in ATC operations. Equipment such as primary or secondary radar, Flight Data Processing Systems and Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-X) are all used in day-to-day operations.

Importance of ATC Ergonomics

As Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for many people and aircraft at any one time, it is crucial that the equipment they use to safely direct traffic is well designed and aids their decision making.

When equipment and the tower environment have not been designed to ‘fit’ with the human element, serious accidents have occurred. ATC had partial responsibility for the 1977 Tenerife disaster which is still currently the world’s deadliest aviation accident in history. An investigation into another accident, USAir Flight 1493 in 1991 specifically cited ergonomics within the ATC tower to be a contributing factor to the accident.

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