Operator-centred local error management in air traffic control

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: A large number of air traffic control occurrences take place without resulting in loss of separation between aircraft. Unfortunately such occurrences are seldom reported and therefore not used for disclosing system weaknesses, Such as inappropriate methods and procedures. The ATCC (Air Traffic Control Centre) Malmoe made a trial with local reporting of "learning occurrences". The trial was ATCO-(Air Traffic Controller) centred. The study objectives were to evaluate if ATCOs would start to report after a defined training and marketing effort, if they could identify system weaknesses, if concrete actions for safety improvement would be taken as a result of the trial and to what extent expert support was necessary. Method and material: The trial period was eight months. The ATCO report would be made on a simple form, available on site. These reports would then be analysed in groups and the marketing and feedback efforts would be co-ordinated by the local flight safety group. Results: 43 reports were filed and analysed during the trial period. The initial motivational training and marketing was considered adequate. During the group discussions, the ATCOs identified system weaknesses within 40 of the reports. The resulting safety improvement actions included: the ATCC unit becoming more active in contacting the pilots and airline companies, the renaming of some waypoints (due to name similarities), the implementation of safer procedures when relieving ATCOs, the training of ATCOs in cockpit flight management systems, and the initiation of a research project primarily concerned with ATCO mental overload. Expert support was required in the beginning to help ATCOs focus on the system rather than on the individual.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


  • learning organisation, safety, air traffic control, system weakness
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-920
JournalSafety Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch