Understanding aviation operators’ variability in advanced systems

Maria Papanikou, Utku Kale, András Nagy, Konstantinos Stamoulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study aims to identify variability in aviation operators in order to gain greater understanding of the changes in aviation professional groups. Research has commonly addressed human factors and automation in broad categories according to a group’s function (e.g., pilots, air traffic controllers [ATCOs], engineers). Accordingly, pilots and Air Traffic Controls (ATCOs) have been treated as homogeneous groups with a set of characteristics. Currently, critical themes of human performance in light of systems’ developments place the emphasis on quality training for improved situational awareness (SA), decision-making and cognitive load.

As key solutions centre on the increased understanding and preparedness of operators through quality training, the authors deploy an iterative mixed methodology to reveal generational changes of pilots and ATCOs. In total, 46 participants were included in the qualitative instrument and 70 in the quantitative one. Preceding their triangulation, the qualitative data were analysed using NVivo and the quantitative analysis was aided through descriptive statistics.

The results show that there is a generational gap between old and new generations of operators. Although positive views on advanced systems are being expressed, concerns about cognitive capabilities in the new systems, training and skills gaps, workload and role implications are presented.

Practical implications
The practical implications of this study extend to different profiles of operators that collaborate either directly or indirectly and that are critical to aviation safety. Specific implications are targeted on automation complacency, bias and managing information load, and training aspects where quality training can be aided by better understanding the occupational transitions under advanced systems.

In this paper, the authors aimed to understand the changing nature of the operators’ profession within the advanced technological context, and the perceptions and performance-shaping factors of pilots and ATCOs to define the generational changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1691-1698
JournalAircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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