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Coordination and cooperation in air traffic control (ATC)

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by D Gyles, Christopher BearmanChristopher Bearman
A number of new technologies and initiatives have been developed in the air traffic control environment that are designed to meet the challenge of managing the significant projected growth in air traffic by the year 2025. These technologies are typically based on iterations of the current formally specified system with little consideration of the system as enacted by people. In Australia, the air traffic control (ATC) systems are designed to enable large volumes of aircraft to be controlled with minimal need for interaction between the controllers. Controllers are able to initiate and execute pre- defined plans with a minimal level of collaboration (called coordination) with other controllers. However, there is some evidence that controllers engage in more detailed forms of collaboration (called cooperation) with other controllers to manage anomalies and make a somewhat efficient system more effective. At the level of individual ATC interactions cooperative activities are rarely articulated in Australian ATC procedures, training programs or formal checking systems, nor are they typically considered by new developments that are designed to enhance system capacity. This study examines the patterns of coordination and cooperation used by air traffic controllers in an Australian ATC facility on normal everyday workdays. The analysis of these observation found that almost a third of interactions with other controllers could be classified as cooperative, with about two thirds of the interactions being coordinative. This shows that there is a high likelihood that controllers are engaging in collaborative activities beyond what would be expected by the system as designed. This suggests that more focus needs to be placed on the way that controllers are actively managing safety in the context of Australian ATC procedures, training programs, and checking systems. In addition, this research has implications for the development of new systems designed to enhance capacity.


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Melbourne, Australia


International Ergonomics Association

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Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Name of Conference

International Ergonomics Association. Triennial World Congress

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