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Human factors in air traffic control


Unlike all the other highly hazardous areas such as the chemical processing industries, nuclear power plants and other related industries, the air traffic control is purely a human centred aspect in which human control plays the most significant role. Despite the recent advances in technological applications that have changed the way various industrial and technical processes are controlled, the air traffic management processes still rely entirely on human control. Due to these important roles that humans play in ensuring the effective management and control of the air control systems, the performance quality of the front tasked persons is placed centrally important.

Some of the key human resources personnel that play critical roles in air traffic control include the engineers, flight controllers, the supervisors and the related operational staffs (Schwarz, Udovic & Kastner, 2000). These personnel are charged with the responsibility of handling a great variety of flights across the world making them centrally important to the effectiveness of air traffic control systems. As a result, humans’ performance and solutions related to the effective control of air traffics play critically important roles in guaranteeing success in this area. Various researches have investigated several human related factors that affects efficient and effective air traffic control systems under different circumstances. It is based on these realizations that this paper looks at the influence of human factors in the modern air traffic control systems. The research will add to the existing knowledge and understanding about the role of human factors in guaranteeing the effectiveness and efficiency in air traffic control systems.

According Schwarz, Udovic & Kastner (2000), the primary role of the air traffic controllers is to ensure safety and efficiency in the process. As a result, experience and professionalism in handling the delegated responsibilities accorded to the respective staffs is of primary importance to achieving success in the control process (Vogt, Adolph, Ayan, Udovic & Kastner, 2002). The entire operations in air traffic control process can be envisioned as illustrated in figure 1. The figure shows the primary clearances in the entire process of the ATM and operations.

The primary responsibilities of the controller and the pilot tend to overlap into one another in respect to different areas of operations. Many analysts have seen this overlap as creating redundancy in the operational systems (Christopher, Anne & James, 1997). The primary role of the overlap is to fill in the gaps created in bridging the operational deficiencies thereby improving the safety conditions during flight. On the other hand, the pilot-controller communication connectivity is mainly geared towards promoting safety and redundancy in the communication processes occurring between the two staff controllers during flight (Christopher, Anne & James, 1997). In this regard, the human role is central to the operations taking place in the air traffic control systems. Some of the human issues that affects the efficient and effective air traffic control operations.


Christopher, D.W., Anne, S.M., & James, P.M., (1997). Panel on Human Factors in Air Traffic    Control Automation, National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy       Press.

Schwarz, S, Udovic, A & Kastner, M. (2000). Stress reduction, safety and efficiency in future     ATM. Proceedings of the 24th Conference of the European Association for Aviation       Psychology EAAP, 4-8th of September 2000. Crieff, Scotland

Vogt, J, Adolph, L, Ayan, T, Udovic, A & Kastner, M. (2002). Stress in modern air traffic           control systems and potential influences on memory performance. Journal of Human           Factors and Aerospace Safety, 2(4): 355-378.