Air traffic controller reactions to computer assistance

  • R.C. Crawley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The research was instigated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to examine the implications for air traffic controllers' (ATCO) job satisfaction of the possible introduction of systems incorporating computer-assisted decision making. Additional research objectives were to assess the possible costs of reductions in ATCO job satisfaction, and to recommend appropriate task allocation between ATCOs and computer for future systems design (Chapter 1).
Following a review of the literature (Chapter 2) it is argued that existing approaches to systems and job design do not allow for a sufficiently early consideration of employee needs and satisfactions in the design of complex systems. The present research develops a methodology for assessing affective reactions to an existing system as a basis for making reommendations for future systems design (Chapter 3).
The method required analysis of job content using two techniques: (a) task analysis (Chapter 4.1) and (b) the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS). ATCOs' affective reactions to the several operational positions on which they work were investigated at three levels of detail: (a) Reactions to positions, obtained by ranking techniques (Chapter 4.2); (b) Reactions to job characteristics, obtained by use of JDS (Chapter 4.3); and (c) Reactions to tasks, obtained by use of Repertory Grid technique (Chapter 4.4).
The conclusion is drawn that ATCOs' motivation and satisfaction is greatly dependent on the presence of challenge, often through tasks requiring the use of decision making and other cognitive skills. Results suggest that the introduction of systems incorporating computer-assisted decision making might result in financial penalties for the CAA and significant reductions in job satisfaction for ATCOs. General recommendations are made for allocation of tasks in future systems design (Chapter 5).
Date of AwardMay 1981
Original languageEnglish


  • system design
  • satisfactions
  • air traffic

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