The National Academies

ACRP 06-08 [Pending]

Human Factors in Airport Airside Operations

  Project Data
Funds: $385,000
Contract Time: 20 months
Staff Responsibility: Marci A. Greenberger

The definition of “runway incursion” as developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is "any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft." The FAA collects data and reports on domestic runway incursions and ICAO collects data and reports on international runway incursions. Additionally, the FAA requires domestic airports to collect information and report incidents of Vehicle/Pedestrian Deviations (V/PDs).  These situations occur not only on runways but in all areas of the airfield (both movement and non-movement areas).  "Loss of situational awareness" may contribute to these incursions.  Since the human element is both the greatest asset and weakest link in airside operations safety, more information is needed to assess the role that human factors contribute to these incidents, assess the human-factor risks associated with these situations, and derive effective mitigation strategies to reduce their occurrence.
Further, current mitigation strategies disproportionately rely on an individual's senses of sight (through the use of markings, signage, and lighting) and hearing (e.g., radios) and current technologies and processes.  Other technologies and processes may exist and could be used to improve practice.
Research is needed to identify best practices to improve airside operations safety through better understanding of human factors as well as improve each individual’s situational awareness within the airside environment. The research should heighten vehicular and pedestrian safety throughout the airfield and should (1) inform airport decision makers of the human factors related to airside operations and (2) make a justifiable case for allocating resources to mitigate the risks from human elements operating in the airside environment.
The objective of this project is to develop a report that:
  1. Identifies and describes the cognitive tasks and required abilities used in airside operations (e.g., vehicle and pedestrian activity inside the fence);
  2. Describes the demands that can limit or complicate situational awareness, thus increasing risk of runway incursions and V/PDs;
  3. Identifies risks associated with reduced cognitive ability and situational awareness caused by fatigue or overload;
  4. Discusses how technologies and processes potentially could be used to reduce or mitigate risks from reduced human performance;
  5. Identifies and describes the most effective technologies and processes that affect and could potentially improve situational awareness for airport employees and others working on the airside;
  6. Estimates resource requirements, including cost, of these technologies and processes;
  7. Discusses the limitations and complications that these technologies and processes may add to the demands of people working in the airside environment; and
  8. Includes unformatted content for a stand-alone executive summary for decision makers to help develop strategies for identifying and implementing strategies for their unique situation.  (Note: The formatting and publication of the executive summary will be undertaken by ACRP and should not be included in the proposed budget.) 
The report shall contain but should not be limited to the elements listed below:
  • An analysis of domestic (and, if practical, international) safety statistics related to runway incursions and V/PDs, sorted by size of airport, type of vehicle operator, and other criteria relevant to the objectives of this research.
  • A synthesis of all types of literature (e.g., books, peer reviewed articles, industry journals) including related ACRP research on human factors relevant to airport airside operations (including those from non-airport settings if relevant).
  • Citations and links to the documents included in the synthesis.
  • A list and evaluation of the most effective technologies and processes available to mitigate human factor risks, improve situational awareness, and reduce runway incursions and V/PDs. The evaluation should focus on common or affordable tools, applications, and equipment (e.g., iPads, smartphones, transponders) and include:
    • New and emerging methods of monitoring and reporting vehicle location by use of plug-in telematics or similar equipment; and
    • New and emerging applications that integrate the airport environment into existing or anticipated automated vehicle features.
  • A list of issues related to fatigue and a discussion of effective techniques to mitigate risks from fatigue.
  • A list of effective practices related to team and organizational dynamics that improve communications and augment safe airside operations.
  • A review of required airside driver's training curricula, with suggested additional content focused on effective methods for initial and recurrent training to maximize situational awareness and highlight human factors.
  • Identification of desirable human skills and abilities that contribute to safe airside operations and proven methods to recognize and develop these necessary skills and improve situational awareness in personnel working in the airport environment.
The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks, and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.
The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following interim deliverables and checkpoints with the ACRP project panel: 
  • A kickoff panel/contractor web meeting to be held within 1 month of contract execution;
  • A white paper that contains:
    • The results of the FAA and ICAO data analysis;
    • The literature review (including gaps needed to complete the research objective);
    • A summary of findings for the list and evaluation of the most effective technologies and processes available to mitigate human factor risks, improve situational awareness, and reduce runway incursions and V/PDs; and
    • A revised work plan describing the remaining tasks needed to complete the research.
  • A web meeting to:
    • Discuss the content of the white paper and how it informs the objective of the project;
    • Confirm the specific targeted audience for the executive summary as well as its depth and breadth of its content; and
    • Approve the revised work plan of remaining tasks.  
  • An interim report that (1) documents the first two elements of the research objective; (2) recommends criteria for determining the most effective technologies and processes for the third element of the research objective, including preliminary results using those criteria; (3) makes a recommendation as to which research gaps should be addressed within the project's remaining budget and schedule and which would need to be addressed in a separate study; and (4) provides unformatted text and graphic content for the executive summary.
  • An interim meeting to review the results of the interim report, approve task for addressing research gaps, and review and approve the draft of the executive summary. 
The final deliverables shall include, at a minimum, the report (with the white paper included as an appendix), the executive summary (text and graphical content only), and a stand-alone technical memorandum titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.”
STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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