Monotony in air traffic control - contributing factors and mitigation strategies

This report discusses the role of monotony in Air Traffic Control (ATC). Despite its obvious relevance as a critical individual state in air traffic controllers, monotony has not been well researched in the past. 

To describe evoking and contributing factors, distinguish similar critical states such as fatigue and satiation, and define countermeasures, three experimental studies were conducted with a total of 32 air traffic controllers (ATCO) in the simulated and ten ATCOs in an operational air traffic control environment. Traffic repetitiveness and (dynamic) traffic density were confirmed to evoke a state of monotony, which is indicated in reduced physiological activation, subjective sleepiness, and behavioral impairments. At the same time, reduced workload but also impaired cognitive functions were observed while fatigue increased with higher time-on-task. Higher initial recovery, the experience of flow, (dynamic) traffic density changing from low to high and active physical exercises in rest breaks were determined to have a monotony- reducing effect. Based on these outcomes, recommendations address the assessment procedures during ATC concept development as well as options for the improvement of the operational environment. The applied psychophysiological multilevel-assessment method shows otherwise undetected but critical dissociations as related to the experience of cognitive functions and motivational aspects and suggests the application of assessment procedures beyond workload ratings. In the operational environment, systematic position assignment based on predicted traffic changes, the collection of initial state information, balanced active rest breaks, trainings on the role of mental sets, and the consideration of an ATCOs psychophysiological condition in incident reporting systems are proposed. A model integrating the mentioned factors supports a systematic analysis of this issue. Future research may address the role of further individual factors related to personnel selection and the long-term development of critical states.

Files

Monotony in air traffic control - contributing factors and mitigation strategies