The Air Traffic Kludge – ES16A

Air Traffic is a ‘Kludge’. Antiquated methods are linked to state-of-the-art devices, and ‘work-arounds’ devised to keep going. There has never been a systematic analysis of Air Traffic as a whole. Analysis shows that the archaic controller-aircrew link is the weakest link in the system. The answer, however, is not to introduce specific technical innovations, but to examine the system as a whole, and to use knowledge of human (and computer) capacities to provide a safe, humane and economic solution.

Originally appeared in “Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors 2016 ” Eds Waterson, A., Sims, R., and Hubbard, E.M.

ISBN 978-0-9554225-9-1

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Representation and Expert Decision

At present representation is the central idea of the psychology of mental activity.  Immediately after behaviourism, it became prominent in studies of mental activity in complex tasks, particularly in process control.  Early seen as fundamental to the study of problem solving, this idea has been adopted in the fields of reasoning and the understanding and production of text under the names of situational awareness or mental modelling. This book concerns the interaction between representation and expert decision making.

It presents a synthesis of work carried out in France on decision making in the activities of air traffic controllers, considered as an archetype of an expert task.  These experimental studies illustrate a synthetic presentation of the principles of the theoretical background to representation.  Examples are also given of practical applications in training and in the ergonomics of computer assisted training.

This work is intended for researchers, instructors and students of cognitive psychology as well as practising trainers or ergonomists.  It will also interest other disciplines in the cognitive sciences which use ideas of representation in other senses.  Finally, the staff of the air traffic control system, and particularly the controllers, will find, or rediscover, a different point of view on the much misunderstood skill of the air traffic controller.

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Second Evaluation of a Radically Revised En-route Air Traffic Control System ES03a

Second Evaluation of a Radically Revised En-route Air Traffic Control System ES03

26 fourth-year students (native French speakers) were given an overall briefing on air traffic control, including a video description of an advanced ATC system, followed by individual coaching using 20 selected training examples. They were instructed that conflict resolution was their main task, but that aircraft should leave at the predetermined point if possible.

They were then presented with two exercises presenting traffic corresponding to an entry rate of 200+ aircraft per hour in random direct flight for one-hour nominal duration. (When no action was required, the simulation rate was accelerated by a factor of six, so that the average length of one exercise was about 14 minutes.)

24 participants controlled this traffic correctly, with no unresolved conflicts. Of the 1720 potential conflicts only two were not resolved correctly. Of the 10468 aircraft, only 5 left at a time, place or height different from that planned.

Published in Contemporary Ergonomics 2003 , Taylor and Francis, Ed. P.T. McCabe ISBN 0-415-30994-8 pp 305-310

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Roles for the Ergonomist in the Development of Human-Computer Interfaces ES06d

Individual ergonomists can make significant strategic contributions to the design of systems, in addition to the traditional ‘knobs and buttons’ work. Ergonomists should be aware of the ways in which ‘the human element’ or its neglect can derail systems. They can warn of unrealistic assumptions (the ‘paperless office, for one example). They can warn of the dangers of ‘horseless carriage’ systems, mimicking traditional displays while losing saliency and failing to exploit the flexibility of the computer. They can emphasise the need to integrate systems and system displays. On deeper levels, they can advise on how systems can accommodate the conflicting requirements of speed, efficiency, reliability, flexibility and safety by making proper use of human operators. They should reflect on the social costs of computerising systems (to the designers, managers, users and clients), and the potential dangers of highly integrated systems.

Published in Contemporary Ergonomics 2006, Taylor and Francis, Ed. P.D. Bust ISBN13 978 0 4`5 39818 3 pp.276-279

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Mindspace ES06c

This is a poster, proposing a probably useful publication. It was greeted with the usual passionate apathy. I am working on it, but on a low priority.

The headlong development of computer-based systems has far outstripped the human resources necessary to guarantee the oversight of human-Computer Interfaces (HCI) by professionally qualified ergonomists. It is very necessary to put relevant information into the hands of system designers before costly and irretrievable errors are made. Most ergonomics literature is aimed at the scientific community, devoting most of its content to highly technical descriptions of experimental methods, subject pools, and statistical analyses. If the information is to reach the target audience, it must be made palatable, without oversimplification or condescension. The late Stephen Pheasant’s ‘Bodyspace’ provides an example of what can be done.

Published in Contemporary Ergonomics 2006, Taylor and Francis, Ed. P.D. Bust ISBN13 978 0 4`5 39818 3 pp.299-300

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Initial Evaluation of a radically revised En-Route Air Traffic Control System

25 postgraduate students (native French speakers) were given an overall briefing on Air Traffic Control, followed by individual familiarisation with the keyboard system and 20 training examples.

They were then presented with traffic corresponding to an entry rate of 250+ aircraft per hour in random direct flight for one-hour nominal duration. (When no action was required, the simulation rate was accelerated by a factor of six, so that the average length of one exercise was about 24 minutes.)

19 students controlled this traffic correctly, with no unresolved conflicts. The total of potential conflicts was 1322 of which 1304 (98.6%) were solved correctly.

Published in Contemporary Ergonomics 2001, Taylor and Francis,Ed. M.A. Hanson ISBN 0-415-25073-0 pp 453-458

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Human-Computer Interaction – the Elephant in the Corner ES08

Although ergonomists have produced much valuable and valid data on the interaction between humans and computers, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to the ‘elephant in the corner’ – the PC (or Apple) without which few people could work effectively today. This paper summarises the development of the classic interface and discusses some of the choices that were made on the way, and how they were made. It looks at the way the personal computer has changed in response to perceived needs (not necessarily those of the user), the transition from a numerical processing device to a text handling device to an image-handling device, and potentially a ‘process handling device’. It discusses the separation of ‘hardware’ from ‘software’, the development of information technology as an elementary life skill, the transition from the ‘stand-alone’ computer to the internet-linked and web-integrated system and the possible consequences of the contemporary trend to an increased role for ‘intuitive’ designers, as opposed to ‘scientific’ experimenters in the development of future systems. Finally, it offers a few reproaches, warnings and suggestions for ergonomists from the past for the future

Published in Contemporary Ergonomics 2008, Taylor and Francis, ed. P.D. Bust ISBN 978-0-415-46575-5 pp.239-245

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Design of Monitoring and Emergency Response Displays for Air Traffic Control

Future Air Traffic Control (ATC) systems will allocate functions between human and computer system elements in different ways. Papers presented at CREATE2007 described the aircraft symbol design and conflict resolution functions. This paper describes the design of displays to signal deviations from flight plans, and of functions to assist in response to emergencies.

Appeared in CREATE2008 – Proceedings of the Conference on Creative Inventions, innovations and Everyday Designs in HCI 13-14 June 2008 London UK

Pages 85-90

Edited David Golightly, Tony Rose, John Bonner and Stephen Boyd Davis

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Deep Design – Beyond the Interface

Many large-scale dynamic control systems are moving from traditional equipment-determined control systems to computer-mediated wholly or semi-automated systems. There has been a tendency for computer-based systems to mimic traditional displays. This approach fails to make use of the enhanced information-handling capacity of the computer, and often produces displays that are in practice inferior to those they replace – occasionally with tragic results. A better approach is to begin with an qualitative functional analysis of the control task, with as little reference to the existing system as possible, then to consider the component tasks, selecting those for which the operators are best suited to compose an interesting but not overloading workload, and delegating the remaining tasks to the computer-based system. Where the workload varies with time, particularly if the variation is unpredictable or uncontrollable, it may be necessary to provide ‘fall-back’ automation, which will maintain safety without regard to efficiency. Only after the operators’ overall tasks have been defined should consideration be given to what and how to display information to the operators, and to the communication links to be used. In many instances graphical images will be preferable to tabular and symbolic to numeric forms. Displays need not be confined to current data – historical trends and projections of future situations can be displayed. The latter can be particularly valuable if linked with projected sequences of control actions, to verify their effectiveness before applying them. Where control is largely ‘by exception’ displays must be designed to enable the operator to obtain the necessary information for effective control in adequate time. Training may include drills for the allocation of tasks between operators, as with CRM (Cockpit Resource Management) in civil aviation.

This paper originally appeared in “Advances in Multimedia and simulation. Human-Machine-Implications” Ed. Klaus-Peter Holtzhausen – Fachhochschule Bochum, University of Applied Sciences ISBN 3-00-002435-2 Copyright 1997 The authors and Fachhochschule Bochum

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Close-Coupled Dynamic systems – Challenge and Opportunity for Ergonomists

Computer-control or computer-mediation is becoming increasingly common in large and small-scale systems. Most such systems have evolved from mechanical or electro-mechanical precursors and have been adapted to, rather than designed for, computer operation. Short-term considerations of surface appearance and (sometimes) the lack of time for in-depth analysis have produced computer-based displays that mimic the preceding electric or mechanical systems, neglecting the enormous potential of modern computer systems, and equally neglecting basic ergonomic and cognitive principles, resulting in unnecessary routine strain on the operators, and failure to use their true strengths in emergencies. This paper suggests that the ergonomist is particularly well placed to guide the development of future interfaces.

Appeared in Contemporary Ergonomics 1997, Taylor and Francis, London, ISBN 0-7484-0677-8 Pages 540-545

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