THE ROLE OF HUMAN FACTORS

Written by: Simone Rozzi
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In successful Remote Towers implementation

Remote Towers (RT) offer tremendous benefits to both airports and ANSPs and are now being considered in the transformation roadmap of many ANSPs. A key lesson learned from successful pioneer RT implementations in Europe is that Human Factors (HF) considerations are vital to successful implementation, including user acceptance and regulatory approval. But when in the lifecycle do you start the human performance assessment?

RT poses specific challenges, such as affecting the ability to judge distances, fatigue, impact on teamwork and the potential for staff resistance to RT implementation. HF is the route to identifying, appreciating and mitigating these issues. In my experience there are two predominant approaches to HF support:

  • HF as a validator of Human Performance aspects. Supported by a Human Performance Assessment process such as that published by SESAR, this role focuses on the appreciation of the change from a human performance perspective and the analysis of the impact in terms of situation awareness, workload, fatigue, etc. While immensely helpful, this approach alone does not guarantee success. Why? Because exploiting HF for evaluation purposes only means that key design decisions have already been taken and HF has missed the opportunity to influence them.
  • HF at the heart of operational requirement specification. Supported by a user-centered design process, this role ensures that the operator is involved from the start of the project lifecycle, to ensure the development of a RT system that supports the operational challenges of a specific airport. The design needs to consider local layout, traffic type and movement, typical weather conditions, etc.

This second role is relevant, as lessons learnt from new ANSP system implementations, not just RT, show that despite an initial operational focus, attention may easily drift towards a technology-centered solution. This may be due to inexperience in how to involve operational experts, leading to fixation on solutions rather than operational needs; on current working methods rather than future ones; and putting too much trust in the technical solutions provided by the manufacturer. These issues are best mitigated by the integration of an HF specialist in the initial concept definition phase, before the decision to buy a specific system has been taken.

HF specialists also bring valuable knowledge to this process, so your team does not waste time reinventing the wheel when specifying the working position, its menus and interfaces, when planning the allocation of information across multiple displays and the panoramic view, etc. The novel nature of RT means that best practices described in HMI and HF standards and applied by an HF specialist can add significant value.

RT programmes are complex and challenging. The role of HF is vital to successfully navigate these challenges and help realise the benefits. Engaging your HF professionals at the concept phase will put you on the path to success.

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