In the domain of Air Traffic Control (ATC), visual scanning refers to a systematic and continuous effort to acquire all necessary information to build and maintain a complete awareness of activities and situations which may affect the controllers’ area of responsibility. Our research team has supported FAA efforts to improve training of the important scanning skill, by conducting research to identify characteristics of successful tower visual scanning behavior. In addition to conducting multidisciplinary working groups and structured one-on-one interviews, we have collected eye-movement data from tower control experts while they controlled high fidelity air traffic simulations of airports at which they are certified. Participants included fifteen air traffic control tower instructors (employed by the FAA Academy) and twelve front line controllers (from Centennial, Denver, Minneapolis, and Orlando airports) each operating Local control for multiple 20-30 minute scenarios. Additionally we ranked instructor performance using time to detect off-nominal scenario events (e.g. smoking aircraft engine, noncompliant vehicles, occurrence of birds, etc.). We subsequently compared number and duration of eye fixations occurring during a scenario across our high and low ranked instructors and found no reliable differences. We also analyzed fixations within and transitions between identified Areas of Interest including Final, Touchdown, Downwind Midfield, Runway Midfield, Runway Intersection, and Departure Corridor. In this presentation, we will discuss what these analyses showed about the usage, by our participants, of scanning best practices identified by our working group (i.e. frequently scanning “hotspots”, airfield-out, segmented scanning, and backward scanning).
Fraga, R. P.,
& Mandal, S.
(2021). Applying Eye-Tracking Technology to Explore the Visual Scanning Practices of Air Traffic Control Tower Controllers. 32nd International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 60-65.