Integrated ATC working position

The market trend towards modernizing ATCO working positions through ATC system and display integration is a growing topic in the industry. With multiple numbers of screens, mimic panels and other input devices cluttering and even complicating their work, the air traffic controllers are forced to create a mental image of the total situation on the airfield, despite the multitude of tools on the Air Traffic Control (ATC) console. Today, the market is realizing there is a better way that has significant advantages.

Projected growth of air traffic is the most pressing reason for considering modernization since it threatens to strain even the most sophisticated airports today. That’s why these 3 reasons for modernizing ATCO working positions are worth thinking about.

1. A bigger focus on safety
The integrated system puts together all relevant information that the controller needs to make the correct decision and manage traffic flow. The integrated system holds a number of functional modules integrated into one main display, plus one electronic flight progress strip screen, for each working position. Thus, the ATCO is not distracted, has all the information he or she needs, and can make better decisions. The resulting reduced workload leads to increased safety for all stakeholders interacting with the flight process; from air traffic control to airline to ground handlers or maintenance staff.

2. Improving ATC efficiency and decision making

Today, the common practice for ATC systems is to tender and purchase them as separate systems and perhaps interface them at a later stage. This approach loses out on the value system and display integration offers.

Vital surveillance, planning, control/monitoring, and clearance systems and functionality are integrated into this display to provide the controller with situational awareness and decision making support throughout the operational workflow. Integration like this can also provide different information and functionality based on user area of responsibility which improves the ability of the ATCO to make decisions.

3. Gains from systemized workflow and operations

As an example of systemized workflow, stop bars can be set up to be automatically controlled based on current runway status, location of aircraft and if line up clearance is given by ATCO. Automation removes the need for ATCO to manually turn off the stop bar when the aircraft arrives to the runway entry point, thereby, reducing workload and enforcing the usage of stop bars. This systemized approach can be utilized with any task throughout the workflow where a non-critical activity can be supported by a system instead of putting additional workload on the air traffic controller.

By systemizing the operational process the system takes on non-critical tasks to reduce the controller workload and improve safety. The resulting improved mental image allows the controller to concentrate on a safe and efficient traffic flow. For congested airports, this frees up unused capacity where traffic expansion may not otherwise be possible.

The most important take away is that there are reasons the market trending towards this approach to ATC. It all ties together and increasingly, airport operations are seen more like one airport, one system, one process. Reducing the workload and providing sophisticated support for the ATCO is a great step forward. In order to do that, we can rethink how it works today for a more modern ATC tomorrow.

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Fredrik Johansson
Senior Advisor Airport Performance