Design And Evaluation Of A Portable Electronic Flight Progress Strip System
Author(s)Doble, Nathan; Hansman, R. John
There has been growing interest in using electronic alternatives to the paper Flight Progress Strip (FPS) for air traffic control. However, most research has been centered on radar-based control environments, and has not considered the unique operational needs of the airport air traffic control tower. Based on an analysis of the human factors issues for control tower Decision Support Tool (DST) interfaces, a requirement has been identified for an interaction mechanism which replicates the advantages of the paper FPS (e.g., minimal head-down time, portability) but also enables input and output with DSTs. An approach has been developed which uses a Portable Electronic FPS that has attributes of both a paper flight strip and an electronic flight strip. The prototype Portable Electronic Flight Progress Strip system uses handheld computers to replace individual paper strips in addition to a central management interface which is displayed on a desktop computer. Each electronic FPS is connected to the management interface via a wireless local area network. The Portable Electronic FPSs replicate the core functionality of paper flight strips and have additional features which provide an interface to a DST. A departure DST is used as a motivating example. This report presents the rationale for a Portable Electronic FPS system and discusses the formatting and functionalities of the prototype displays. A usability study has been conducted to determine the utility of the Portable Electronic FPS in comparison to paper flight strips. This study consisted of a human-in-the-loop experiment which simulated the tasks of an air traffic controller in an airport control tower environment. Specific issues explored during the experiment include the appropriateness of displaying departure advisories on the Portable Electronic FPS, the importance of FPS portability, and the advantages of interaction mechanisms enabled by an electronic interface. Experimental results are presented which show that test subjects preferred the Portable Electronic FPS to a paper FPS. However, results for performance-based measures were partially confounded by a dominance of practice effects, experimental limitations, and characteristics of the prototype hardware itself. The implications of the experimental results are discussed with the aim of directing further research toward the goal of creating an operationally-deployable Portable Electronic FPS system. Future research should explore emergent display technologies which better emulate the physical characteristics of the paper FPS. Once this is accomplished, higher-fidelity performance-based analyses may be conducted, engaging air traffic controllers on design and implementation issues.
MIT International Center for Air Transportation
air traffic control, air transportation, Flight Progress Strip, Decision Tool