Publication Date

Summer 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Sean Laraway



Subject Areas

Experimental psychology


The growing demand for air transportation necessitates the integration of automated support tools to assist air traffic controllers in managing the increase in number of flights. Using archival data from a human-in-the-loop simulation, the current study examined the potential consequence of integrating automated support on eight retired air traffic controllers’ performance and workload in current and projected future levels of air traffic. Two-way repeated measures ANOVA were used to examine workload and conflict detection performance across two levels of simulated air traffic density and two levels of automated routine task support. The participant controllers reported significantly higher workload and exhibited a non-significant decrease in conflict detection performance when managing a higher number of aircraft. The decrease in conflict detection performance reached significance only when participant controllers were not assisted by automation. In contrast, participant controllers were slowest to detect conflicts while managing the least number of aircraft and assisted by automation. The results of the current study are mixed; we conclude that automation of routine tasks has the potential to mitigate the increased workload and decreased performance experienced as the number of aircraft increases, certainly over no assistance, but that it may also be disruptive in certain circumstances, such as during low air traffic levels where the controllers may experience underload. More research is needed to identify appropriate levels of automation to achieve the same level of safety seen in today’s air traffic control system.