How to design the most suitable Air Traffic Control console?

Aeropuerto Bucarest sala de control

Designing a control console for the air traffic management is not a trivial matter, since there are several elements that exclusively exist in this kind of control centers that cannot be ignored.

GESAB, with more than 30 years of experience designing technical furniture for critical environments, has achieved an immeasurable experience in the analisys of each space’s needs and its experts have wanted to develop a text where the existing challenges when designing a console for ATC are reflected.

Data collection

Obtaining the needs and translating them into the design of a workspace in a productive and confortable way is the most important key and often the most difficult one. The order in which the decissions are made about what is going to be installed in a control room determines the success, so GESAB recommends to design the technical furniture once the IT equipment are defined and assigned to each operator’s position. Usually, the Arquitecture Department is who proposes the distribution and the design of the technical furniture in the control room, which in practice carries a risk if there is no involvement and coordination with the ICT Department which can cause errors in the design (as the lack of space for equipment) and having to make modifications “on the go”.

Size of the equipment

The amount of equipment in an ATC console is usually very substancial, since several systems that require different screens and other elements such as loudspeakers, ticket printers or flight progress record holder, voice communication equipments, etc. are monitored. This causes that designs that take advantage of every milimeter are needed, since all these equipment must be within the reach of the operator, either for manipulation or visual / acoustic control.

Thus, a very interesting solution is the use of the Personal Hub and Personal Dock as integrating elements for some small-sized equipment and connectivity that are required within easy reach.

Proper ergonomics

Everything must be within the reach of the hand.

The organization of the space and its ergonomics is usually defined by the consultant during the CONOPS phase (operations concepts), in which knowing the technology and how the control center itself is going to operate is essential. This consultancy must be developed around “how do they work” and “who does each task” in the center.

A factor that also should be considered is cultural, since the configuration of the workspace will be conditioned by the customs and culture of the region (reading from right to left on display screens, language, etc.).

Actea ATC

Old equipment

Obsolete systems and equipment imply an added challenge and, although sometimes there is a need for the client to maintain certain old equipment supplied by manufacturers that have not renewed them, it is usually try to evolve together with the market to more updated versions.

Failsafe design

The design of furniture for ATC must go through a testing and prototyping phase to guarantee a successful result.

In addition, the design of the workspace must consider a space to house redundant equipment, as well as the installation of electrical and communications cabling independently and without interfering each other.

International and specific regulations

Sometimes the interlocutor with whom they work is unaware of the international standards related to the design of a control room, so the training work prior to the start of the design phase is essential to ensure the success of the project.

Equipment obsolescence

The validity of the equipment that are installed inside an ATC workstation has an expiration date, which entails making a flexible and adaptable design to future technologies.

Aena Control Aeropuerto Palma Mallorca

Change of equipment during the design process

The construction of an airport takes a long period of time, so it is common for the technology designed at the begining of the proyect to be different from to the one that is finally implemented and installed. Therefore, it must be considered that the design of the control console is versatile so that it can include modifications of the equipment provided in the position of the operator. The Free Wall semi-vertical technical area of the ATC control conles of GESAB stands out for contemplating multifunctional spaces for these IT teams.

Audio elements in the workspace and room acoustics

The use of headphones and head sets by the operators for their daily work means that the room must comply with a correct acoustic level, thus giving the posibility of achieving the maximum concentration and avoiding unnecessary distractions.

The acoustic environment must be controlled and comfortable, so the solutions that must be integrated into the furniture must be the most appropriate and ergonomic, highlighting the location of the connections of these devices.

Visibility in the control tower

The operators of an ATC control tower requird complete visibility of the runway and the airport campus in general. That is whay a large part of the time they work standing directing the operation through the beacon of the Tower, concepts and procedures that must also be considered in the design of the console, the required spaces and the appropriate IT equipment.

ACTEA Air Traffic Control consola de control

Large volumen of cabling

One of the biggest handicaps in the Airport IT sector is the security of the systems. For this reason, most of these spaces require physical wiring that must also be considered in the design of the consoles, both in terms of the space required for installation and easy access for maintenance tasks.

Ergonomical chairs

The ergonomic factor is always reflected in performance and there are no greater peculiarities than those of a 24/7 work chair. Mention that a lower number of adjustment points in a control room chair causes the best situation for operators who share said chair with other people who work on other shifts.

Personal lighting

Although it is a minor factor in the design since it can almost always be added at any time, at GESAB we recommend that it not be overlooked.

Tendency to remote towers

En los últimos años se están implementando torres de control remotas para pequeños y medianos aeropuertos. Esta solución consiste en la instalación de cámaras y sensores en los aeropuertos remotos permitiendo centralizar en un único centro de control situado a miles de kilómetros de distancia los servicios de Control de Aeródromo (ATC) y los servicios de Información de Vuelo (AFIS).

In recent years, remote control towers have been implemented for small and medium airports. This solution consists of the installation of cameras and sensors in remote airports allowing the services of Control of Aerodrome (ATC) and services of Flight Information (AFIS) to be centralized in a single control center located thousands of kilometers away.

Text developed in collaboration with Sergio de Felipe (Aviation Consultant en Airport Gurus).

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