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Executive Summary

Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design

In aviation, Human Factors/Ergonomics (HF/E) is traditionally closely linked to safety. The way safety is understood in the discipline of HF/E determines how HF/E approaches system design. Today, safety is often measured by its absence, by recording and evaluating critical events, for example. A safety report then usually contains the number and severity of incidents that have occurred in a specific period. However, it rarely describes the actual safety status of the organisation.

For several years, progressive safety experts and scientists have been developing new and pro-active approaches to capturing and understanding safety in complex systems. It is not so much a question of recording when the system is not functioning but rather of understanding successful operation. This is where HF/E needs to question whe ther they want to design safety or just prevent unsafety. A proactive design of safety in this new perspective goes far beyond prevention and risk mitigation.

An active role for HF/E in system design is becoming even more important, considering that the degree of automation is increasing with each system generation. New technologies, digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI) are considered as a reliable source for more capacity and efficiency. However, confidence in technology alone without further investment in HF/E will likely result in less safety, capacity and efficiency. To achieve the anticipated benefits through more technology, it is all the more important to understand the overall system with its complex interactions and dependencies. Who, if not HF/E can provide a significant contribution to this? Currently, however, HF/E seems not well integrated in the actual design process of air traffic management (ATM) systems.

This whitepaper proposes basic principles for a better integration of HF/E in system design. These are:

  • 1. Build joint design teams and do not treat HF/E as a mandatory add-on
  • 2. Make a coherent user-centred-design rationale your HF/E product
  • 3. Strive for a short, iterative user-centred design process
  • 4. Derive objective HF/E criteria instead of relying on user opinions
  • 5. Evaluate as early as possible with the help of prototypes
  • 6. Select appropriate conditions for evaluation: Eva luate day-to-day operations as well as critical situations
  • 7. Support the problem-solving process during implementation by facilitating trade-offs
  • 8. Do a proper problem-setting in the first place whenever possible to understand your actual problem and the underlying mechanisms and needs
  • 9. Be ready to participate in strategic decisions and introduce a purpose-orientated view of technology

The application of these principles supports organisations in better integrating HF/E into practice, which is urgently needed for the challenges to come: Not just for better user acceptance, but also to ensure that the anticipated benefits through more automation and techno logy are effectively realised.


Source: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design, EUROCONTROL, 2019

The White Paper is available on Bookshelf here: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design

More presentations on Human Factors and Automation are available at Human Factors and Systems Safety Thinking Conference