Human performance

We support the balance between effective, efficient and safe ATM systems, organisational objectives and staff needs in complex work systems.


Human performance, in the context of air traffic management (ATM), refers to the performance of jobs, tasks and activities by operational personnel – individually and together. At EUROCONTROL, we support the achievement of an effective, efficient and safe ATM system while reconciling organisational objectives and staff needs in complex work systems.

Our activity covers all aspects of integrating people into systems including such diverse areas as getting the workstation and controller tools right, ensuring there is adequate staffing, and managing ‘human error’.

In aviation, as in any industry, statistics indicate that human error is a contributing factor in the majority of incidents and accidents. As such, human error is a potential weak link in the ATM system and therefore measures must be taken to prevent errors and their impact and to maximise other human qualities such as error detection and recovery.

The expertise of human performance specialists and the tools they use are key ingredients to advance ATM infrastructures in Europe and beyond. Understanding and managing human performance is therefore critical to the future of ATM. No matter how advanced the concepts and systems become, humans will be on centre stage as the decision makers, and human performance will remain the key driver of ATM performance.

As the Network Manager, we are leading the way for the implementation of human performance enhancement initiatives. This includes training courses, guidance material, dedicated projects, ad-hoc support initiatives in a wide range of different fields.

  • Team resource management (TRM) to develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards teamwork skills and human performance in ATC, helping to minimise the impact of teamwork related errors within the ATM system.
  • Critical incident stress management (CISM) to provide structured assistance for a normal reaction to an abnormal event. The CISM activity aims to moderate the impact of critical incident stress and to speed up the return to the pre-incident phase.
  • Human factors case, a process to identify and treat human factor-related issues and benefits during an ATM project throughout its lifecycle, from concept to decommissioning. EUROCONTROL developed a standalone application to track human factors case data throughout the five stages of the HF case process for any ATM project.
  • Fatigue and sleep management, for shift workers like controllers to provide knowledge and strategies useful to better manage sleep and perspectives on fatigue risk management systems.
  • Human error in European ATM (HERA), a project dedicated to the human factors perspective in incident/accident investigation, safety management and prediction of potential new forms of errors arising from new technology.
  • Human factors in safety management systems (SMS) to support ATM safety actors when integrating HF into their daily activities. The project has developed a training course and is developing guidelines with methods and tools to better integrate human factors and “soft issues” into ATM SMS.
  • Normal operations safety survey (NOSS), a method designed to capture threats to safety that arise during everyday operations, as they occur. NOSS is designed to acquire an overview of how the system performs.

Jointly with air navigation service providers (ANSPs), we work to develop and implement the safety team’s human performance plan for 2019 and beyond and to ensure the sustainability of the Single European Sky 5th pillar, human factors.