The Effects of Early Training with Automation Tools on the Air Traffic Management Strategies of Student ATCos
The present study examined whether early exposure of student Air Traffic Controllers (ATCos) to NextGen automation technology in the form of integrated Data Comm affects the degree to which they come to rely on this tool instead of voice-based, manual tools to manage traffic. The data reported in this study comes from 24 students who took part in one of two semesters of an ATCo training course offered by our organization. One group received little or no early training with integrated Data Comm, managing no aircraft (AC) that were NextGen equipped or only 25% that were NextGen equipped in the first half of the course. A second group managed 75% aircraft (AC) that were NextGen equipped from the beginning of the training course. After the first half of the course, both groups received training with at least 50% NextGen-equipped aircraft (AC). Both groups were tested in a midterm and final exam that required them to manage traffic in a mixed equipage scenario. We found that proficiency of the students predicted their performance. Moreover, by the final exam, students converged on the same strategy, preferring to issue clearances using voice rather than Data Comm, regardless of early exposure to automation tools. This is likely because voice communication is faster than Data Comm, and is associated with greater efficiency of air traffic management.
KeywordsReliance on automation ATCo communication ATC training NextGen
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