Human Factors Integration in New ATM Systems

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Human Factors Integration in New ATM Systems

54TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Sofia, Bulgaria, 20-24 April 2015

WP No. 159

Human Factors Integration in New ATM Systems

Presented by PLC


This paper analyses human factors (HF) relating to the implementation of new ATM systems. The aviation system is becoming increasingly safe and efficient thanks to the evolution of technology and related procedures. Nevertheless, this transformation, without the right attention, can also produce negative outcomes related to the increased complexity caused by the interaction between the different elements of the environment. Every element is studied to accomplish a specific task but sometimes the connection between them and related human factors are underestimated. Humans are the flexible element that is capable and required to connect all the others in the correct manner to complete the activity, maintaining the highest level of safety. Consequently, all systems must incorporate human- centred designed.


1.1  Aviation has faced a multitude of changes in its history as, by it’s own nature, it is dependent upon the evolution of technology. This evolutionary process has enabled it to reach the great results in terms of performance and safety that we have today; however, technology is still evolving and is pushing the system towards new horizons. From the first airfields to modern airports, all of these improvements have increased aviation system complexity, adding new paths for system failure such as common mode failures as a result of new system dependencies.

1.2  Over the last few years IFATCA has studied the relationship between humans and automation, highlighting the following as the most important facets to fully understand and analyse when implementing a new system in ATM:

  • recruitment and selection;
  • training;
  • transition;
  • trust in automation; and
  • fatigue management.

1.3  Despite IFATCA studies and policy on the issue, human factors are still frequently underestimated when implementing new systems with the result of producing undesired outcomes, potentially compromising safety and reliability within ATM.

1.4 This paper aims to analyse IFATCA policy related to the integration of Human Factors in new systems with the objective of better influencing such changes within ATM.


2.1  During the 51th IFATCA Annual Conference in Kathmandu (2012), PLC and TOC presented two papers analysing two different aspects of the implementations of a new ATM system: “Determining operations readiness of automated ATM systems” and “Change management”. Both papers are relevant to this discussion.

2.2  In Kathmandu it was shown how human factors impact safety in ATM when operators are requested to achieve a task in an environment where new systems are introduced. Concepts such as Acceptability and Usability were recognised to be of key importance in order to implement new “human-centred” systems reducing the likelihood and the severity of an incident/accident resulting from its mutual interaction with the operator.

2.3  The integration of human factors and the application of proper techniques and guidelines early in the development of a new system maximises human performance in general, increasing efficiency and effectiveness and therefore productivity. Furthermore, this approach reduces training, late problem detection and the number of mitigation measures needed; ultimately, increasing safety and reducing costs.

2.4  Figure 1 shows the relationship between costs, human performance issues and the integration of HF principles in the system life-cycle. The later HF principles are introduced, the later human performance issues are detected and the greater the total costs become as changes to the system at an early stage of development are cheaper than a continuous process of mitigation which may last beyond development and implementation phases.

2.5  Human Factors Case

2.5.1 EUROCONTROL in 2011 published the third edition of a document called “Support material for Human Factors Case application” with the goal of providing guidance to design and implement a new ATM system to obtain the desired performance improvements from the human perspective. Even though the document and its contents are not mandatory, it provides very useful and scientific information describing the Human Factors Case: a management process to systematically identify and treat HF issues and benefits during an ATM project throughout its lifecycle, from concept to decommissioning.

2.5.2  The Human Factors Case has been developed to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to ensure that the design of a technical, human, and/or procedural system can deliver the desired performance improvements. It is consistent with E-OCVM (European Operational Concept Validation Methodology – E-OCVM has become a standard for European projects (ratified by European Commission) and been adopted by SESAR) aims and objectives and is designed to be simple, practical and effective, describing users (not only HF specialists) who does what, what documents to use and to produce, how to produce these documents and when.

2.5.3  The HF Case has five specific stages:

Stage 1 – Fact Findings and scoping

This stage collects the necessary information to scope the project, and get an appropriate level of understanding to start considering human factors matters relevant to the project, including interactions between operational environment, working environment, people, procedures and equipment.

Stage 2 –Benefits and issues generation

The goals of this stage are to identify the project specific HF benefits and issues, identify their potential impact, prioritise them and propose idea(s) for mitigation.

Human Factors benefits are potentially positive HF consequences of the new concept/system/tool that should be verified and/or validated, while Human Factors issues are potentially negative HF consequences that need further investigation or mitigation.

Stage 3 – Mitigation planning and benefit clarification

The main goal of this Stage is to refine and finalise the information generated in Stage 2 by bringing together the list of issues, mitigations and benefits with existing expertise, experience and knowledge of Human Factors matters. While elaborating and refining the most important issues and benefits generated during Stage 2, some human factors investigations will be required; this will also rationalise and validate the information gathered.

Stage 4 – HF requirements and validation needs

The objectives of this Stage are:

To derive the HF design requirements that accommodate the issues and their associated mitigations and identify the validation evidence that is required to demonstrate these are achieved,

Based on the benefits identified in Stage 3; to define the significant benefits to the system performance and identify the validation that is required to demonstrate these are achieved.

Stage 5 – HF Case monitoring, management and control

This Stage may be seen as a transversal stage that is conducted in parallel to the core process of the case (Stages 1 to 4). Its purpose is to:

Ensure the quality and the completeness of Stages 1 to 4 through the systematic review step as the HF Case progresses

Collect and integrate information for external use, e.g. any information contributing to the Safety Case or to the Business Case

Be used to build a body of evidence to show that (and how) HF has been integrated into the planning/design process

Ensure regular reporting, traceability of iteration and adequate level of evidence for the stage of development of the concept

Allow the opportunity to identify missing elements by reviewing – with the project manager (or delegated expert) – each stage prior to completion of HF Case

Provide a mechanism for extracting management related information that can be used to provide assurance that HF issues are being thoroughly considered

2.5.4  The HF Case process is designed to be iterative and elements of it can be reapplied through each lifecycle phase as the project matures.

2.5.5  The application of this methodology is a possible tool for HF integration consistent with E-OCVM. It is simple to use and provides examples, templates, guidance and best practices previously used in various projects, such as:

  • A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System);
  • CREDOS (Crosswind – Reduced Separations for Departure Operations);
  • ERASMUS (En-Route Air Traffic Soft Management Ultimate System);
  • FASTI (First ATC Support Tools Implementation);
  • New ATCO Rostering System and Night Shift;
  • N-FDPS (New – Flight Data Processing System);
  • TMA 2010+ (Trajectory Management Applications – Improved arrival procedures);
  • UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) ATM Integration

2.6 Analysing behavioural changes

2.6.1  The value of Human Factors integration while implementing a new ATM system has been widely established for the prediction of the results of such a change in ATM, with the important benefit of achieving the expected aftermath effectively and earlier with reduced resources and costs.

2.6.2  This was demonstrated in 2007 in a study conducted by University of Westminster and EUROCONTROL: “A psychosocial approach to understanding pilot and controller acceptance of change in ATM, based on three CDA case studies”. For the first time in the study of ATM implementation and acceptance of change, this analysis incorporates the Seven Stages of Change model, based on the constructs of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. It employs a principal components (factor) analysis, and further explores the inter-correlations of benefit perceptions, known in psychology as the ‘halo effect’.

2.6.3  This effect, defined by Edward Thorndike in 1920s as a “…tendency to think of the person in general as rather good or rather inferior and to colour the judgments of the qualities by this general feeling”, is very important for a change management because it is widely demonstrated that ATCOs’ behaviours (as human in general) are heavily influenced by their perceptions of the system and of its environment. Although in ATM, behaviour is particularly (and desirably) subject to the external constraints of operating procedures (neither the pilot nor controller has autonomy of action, but is subject to the evolving constraints of the strategic and tactical control environment). The theory of Planned Behaviour uses and confirms this effect aiming to predict deliberated behaviour in the context of (perceived) control.

2.6.4  The Theory of Planned Behaviour uses three basic constructs as ‘predictors’ of the intention of an individual carrying out a desired action:

  • ‘attitude’ (a favourable disposition towards the action),
  • ‘subjective norm’ (perceived social pressure to take the action), and
  • ‘perceived behavioural control’ (whether the individual feels in control of the process of action).

2.6.5  During the study, the Theory of Planned Behaviour constructs was integrated with the Seven Stages of Change model. These stages (see Figure 3) represent the theoretical, cognitive and conative ‘process’ through which an individual may move from one type of behaviour to another. The study states that in order to successfully implement change in ATM, it is necessary to appreciate that all types of change require some type of ‘buy-in’ to work. This does not just mean accepting that a change needs to take place, or accepting some responsibility, or recognising some benefits as these alone are insufficient, but all actors of the change should be fully motivated towards the new process.

Figure 3 – (with example questions based on CDAs, taken from the study)

2.6.6  In implementation research, by measuring maturation on each of these stages, and understanding the relationships between them, it is possible to gain valuable insights into behavioural motivation. Moreover, such understanding can give implementers of change insights into the likelihood of successful and unsuccessful strategies, highlighting perceptual barriers to change, and drivers of change.

2.6.7  The evidence of this study conducted by EUROCONTROL and the University of Westminster suggests to implementers of change an approach in terms of reinforcing the dominant perceived benefit(s), while perceived disbenefits, such as with respect to workload and capacity, should be offset against specific, perceived benefits of the change as far as possible.

2.6.8  Many authors refer to the participation and support of all staff as a major success factor (Sandau and Jöns 2001). Executives and managers must aim at encouraging and demanding top performance of their staff, using all their staff’s talents, abilities and interests. Holding feedback meetings and target-agreement meetings, helping people to help themselves, maximising communication, and setting an example – all these are indispensable (Frey et al. 2004).

2.6.9 In view of these requirements, it becomes clear that differentiated training measures for executives in the field of change management are more necessary than ever. In order to be able to deal successfully with change on an almost daily basis, it is vital for an executive not to be just superficially concerned with strategies or measures, but to understand the background issues, i.e. essential psychological processes and emotions (Gerkhardt and Frey 2006). Only when these are internalised does it become possible to successfully realise the expected achievement (change).

2.7 IFATCA policy

IFATCA policy statements relevant to the topic are the following:



Automation must improve and enhance the data exchange for controllers. Automated systems must be fail-safe and provide accurate and incorruptible data. These systems must be built with an integrity factor to review and crosscheck the information being received.

The Human Factors aspects of Automation must be fully considered when developing automated systems.
Automation must assist and support ATCOs in the execution of their duties.

The controller must remain the key element of the ATC system.

Total workload should not be increased without proof that the combined automated/human systems can operate safely at the levels of workload predicted, and to be able to satisfactorily manage normal and abnormal occurrences. Automated tools or systems that support the control function must enable the controller to retain complete control of the control task in such a way so as to enable the controller to support timely interventions when situations occur that are outside the normal compass of the system design, or when abnormal situations occur which require non-compliance or variation to normal procedures.

Automation should be designed to enhance controller job satisfaction.

The legal aspects of a controller’s responsibilities must be clearly identified when working with automated systems. [..]




The implementation of automated systems shall include sufficient training, including the Human Factors aspects of automation, prior to using new equipment. The level of training is a major factor in determining the level of traffic that can be safely handled until all controllers have gained enough hands-on experience.




Operational controllers shall be involved in the design, development and implementation of new ATM systems. Their role should include:

  • Establish user requirements.
  • To participate in the risk assessment process.
  • To validate the system.
  • To provide feedback in the further development of the system.


2.8 Human factors integration in IFATCA policy

2.8.1  As shown, IFATCA states that training related to the use of new systems is fundamental and it shall include Human Factors aspects of automation; however, the statement related to the ATCO roles in the design, development and implementation of such systems does not consider training. It is the opinion of the PLC that this list should be amended as follows:

Operational controllers shall be involved in the design, development and implementation of new ATM systems. Their role shall include:

  • establishing user requirements.
  • defining operational training requirements prior to implementation.
  • participating in the risk assessment process.
  • validating the system.
  • providing feedback in the further development of the system.

2.8.2  Moreover, IFATCA 12 WP No 87 “ Determining operations readiness of new ATM systems”, §2.4.3, states that:

To integrate human factors the development team should include people with the following profiles:

  • system developers, typically software engineers;
  • end-users, usually the operational controllers, supervisors and maintenance engineers;
  • managers responsible for directing the development process;
  • human factors specialists, who participate to ensure the integration of human factors.

2.8.3  However, this is still not included in IFATCA Technical and Professional Manual. Nevertheless, the analysis conducted in 2012 can be useful to supplement what is already stated by IFATCA policy statements. Specifically IFATCA policy (§2.5.1) requests practitioners able to provide

“…proof that the combined automated/human systems can operate safely at the levels of workload predicted, and to be able to satisfactorily manage normal and abnormal occurrences….”

and to identify and define

“…The legal aspects of a controller’s responsibilities…”.

Therefore, to integrate human factors, the design, development and implementation team must be heterogeneous and should include, at least, people with the following profiles:

  • system developers – typically software and hardware engineers (- should normally be those responsible for the technical design of the product with the goal to merge all inputs received from the team into a technically achievable system);
  • project managers, responsible for directing the development process, for taking decisions and coordinating the team members, having in mind the expected results;
  • end-users – usually the operational controllers, supervisors and ATSEPs (Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel) – are the experts of their working environment. They are the ones able to understand what is helpful to achieve their tasks and what is not;
  • human factors specialists with experience in the management of change, responsible for ensuring the integration of human factors;
  • legal experts, responsible for adapting the product to the legal environment;
  • safety specialist, who assess the safety impact of the system.

2.8.4 Each element of the list has its unique value in the process because it represents a different perspective, background, training and expectation; what could be easily recognised by one element may not be readily identified by the others. All team members must collaborate proactively, respecting the role of the others and their contributions because they are complementary to provide the holistic approach needed for the introduction of a new ATM system.

2.8.5 Human factors specialists would certainly play the most important role in the integration of human factors into new systems, nevertheless the participation of all practitioners listed is fundamental because at the end front-line operators will use the new equipment/tool, facing all the aspects characterising their environment. Therefore, elements such as operators’ concerns related to possible legal implications or related to safety, for example, can heavily affect its use.

2.9 Intrinsic vs tactical safety

2.9.1 IFATCA defines intrinsic and tactical safety, respectively as:

  • Safety aspects inherent to the design of the system;
  • Safety aspects related to the application of procedures and to the adoption of defences, where the design of the system is inadequate to achieve a given safety level.

2.9.2  This implies, as stated during the 47th IFATCA Annual Conference in Arusha (2008) (47th IFATCA Annual Conference – Agenda item C.6.9 – “Investigate the professional aspects of the difference between intrinsic and tactical safety in the aerodrome domain” (Working Paper presented by PLC)), that tactical safety relies on fallible means because it is based on mitigation measures for unsafe conditions, while intrinsic safety is based on the elimination of any possible hazard during the design phase of a system.

2.9.3  Therefore, the previously mentioned list would certainly contribute to obtaining a system as intrinsically safe as possible, proposing a holistic approach able to identify and solve problems early in the system life-cycle, and to reduce the need to adopt corrective actions (tactical measures) later. Ultimately, the adoption of the list mentioned in §2.8.3 would facilitate the new system/tool’s safe implementation and future usage.


3.1  Human factors integration in new ATM systems is recognised worldwide as an essential element to reduce implementation costs and to improve safety, acceptability and usability.

3.2  Some aviation stakeholders studied scientific methods and programs to identify and manage benefits and drawbacks related to human interaction in changes to ATM. The support material for Human Factors Case application, published by EUROCONTROL, is a valid tool to have a comprehensive approach to ensure that the design of a human, technical and/or procedural system can produce the desired improved performance. It is designed to be simple and practical so as to be used not only by human factors professionals, specifically describing what to do, how to do it and when.

3.3  Moreover, the value of Human factors analysis can also be used to predict personnel behavioural changes related to the introduction of new systems, procedures or tools. These changes can be understood by means of three elements related to individual perception, such as attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control, suggesting implementers of changes an approach in terms of reinforcing perceived benefits against perceived disbenefits.

3.4  IFATCA fosters the integration of human factors in any ATM system in order to increase its usability, integrity, reliability, efficiency and ATCO’s job satisfaction, ultimately to increase aviation safety; in this regard, the paper recommends the following revision to the current policy of the Federation.


4.1  It is recommended that IFATCA policy:

Operational controllers shall be involved in the design, development and implementation of new ATM systems. Their role should include:

  • Establish user requirements.
  • To participate in the risk assessment process.
  • To validate the system.
  • To provide feedback in the further development of the system.

Be changed to read:

Operational controllers shall be involved in the design, development and implementation of new ATM systems. Their role shall include:

  • establishing user requirements.
  • defining operational training requirements prior to implementation.
  • participating in the risk assessment process.
  • validating the system.
  • providing feedback in the further development of the system.

4.2 It is recommended that IFATCA policy is:

The design, development and implementation team of a new ATM system/equipment/tool shall include, as a minimum:

  • system developers – typically software and hardware engineers;
  • project managers;
  • end-users – usually the operational controllers, supervisors and ATSEPs (Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel);
  • legal experts;
  • human factors specialists;
  • safety specialists.


12th Air Navigation Conference – WP 152 – The deployment of automation in future ATM systems.

47th IFATCA Annual Conference – Agenda item C.6.9 – Investigate the professional aspects of the difference between intrinsic and tactical safety in the aerodrome domain.

51th IFATCA Annual Conference – Agenda item C.6.4 – Determining Operations Readiness of Automated ATM Systems.

51th IFATCA Annual Conference – Agenda item C.6.8 – Change management.

EUROCONTROL – Human factor Integration in Future ATM systems (HIFA)- identification of tasks and development scenarios.

EUROCONTROL – Support material for Human Factors Case application, third edition, 2011.

EUROCONTROL – Attitudes to change in ATM operations – Introduction of CDA trials at Manchester, Bucharest & Stockholm, Final report, November 2007.

EUROCONTROL, University of Westminster – “A psychosocial approach to understanding pilot and controller acceptance of change in ATM, based on three CDA case studies”.

The human factor in change processes: Success factors from a socio-psychological point of view – Marit Gerkhardt, Dieter Frey and Peter Fischer.

EUROCONTROL – HIFA identification of tasks and development scenarios.

Last Update: October 1, 2020  

May 7, 2020   885   Jean-Francois Lepage    2015    

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