The effect of target fascination on control and situation awareness in a multiple remote tower center : A human factors study
Abstract: The Multiple Remote Tower Center concept (mRTC) is a cutting edge project which allows one air traffic control officer (ATCO) to be in charge of multiple remotely situated airports simultaneously. When implemented, it will revolutionise how air traffic is managed at smaller airports and allow for increased efficiency and decreased operational costs. Consequently, at the time of writing a lot of effort is going into evaluating this new way of air traffic management from a safety perspective. Air traffic management has been defined as an issue maintaining situational awareness and exercising control. This thesis aims to investigate how the phenomenon target fascination affects the ATCOs ability to exercise control over its controlled airspace and maintain its situation awareness. It does so by creating a baseline scenario of work in a mRTC, and then comparing the ATCOs performance in the baseline scenario with its performance in the same corresponding scenario, but with elements of target fascination introduced. The differences in the scenarios are analysed using the Contextual Control Model, the Extended Control Model and a holistic framework for studying situation awareness. The analysis shows that target fascination does affect the ATCOs ability to maintain control, but not radically so, and only for a short period of time. The target fascination forces the ATCO to rely on information in the immediate environment to a higher degree than during regular work, as opposed to making decisions based on a holistic understanding of the situation and high level goals. However, once the understanding of the situation have been re-established, the level of control quickly returns to normal levels. Situation awareness is thus a key concept in maintaining control. The situation awareness analysis show that target fascination affects situation awareness by causing the ATCOs understanding of the situation to become outdated without the ATCOs knowledge. Because of this, there may be developments in the situation that the ATCO is not aware of, which hinders it from acting as it normally would. In some cases an intervention from an external actor or element may be necessary to break the fascination and re-establish the ATCOs understanding for the situation. As soon as the fascination is broken, the ATCO quickly takes steps to re-establish its situation awareness and return to normal operations.
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