Unstable approach in aviation: Examine air traffic controllers’ involvement from situation awareness and shared-situation awareness

Hsueh Yi Lai*, Chun Hsien Chen, Li Pheng Khoo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This research aims to investigate how air traffic controllers (ATCOs) contribute to landing instability from the perspective of situation awareness and shared situation awareness. Seven (7) air traffic controllers were involved in semi-structured interviews to study how their decisions were made during the landing phase. Based on the results obtained, the themes identifed were articulated respectively under both proactive and reactive scenarios. In proactive scenarios, ATCOs will make a plan to expedite the air traffic flow to manage the workload in the future, which may decrease the time and the distance for pilots to operate. Thus, the task-related Shared-Mental Model (SMM) enables ATCOs to expedite the landing process within acceptable margins. In addition, the team-related SMM allows ATCOs to intervene in the unstabilized landing state in advance. On the other hand, as for reactive scenarios, unexpected weather and pilots’ improper performance due to fuel conservation are the most prominent scenarios for ATCOs to be reactive. To tackle unexpected changes, the task-related SMM facilitates ATCOs in providing extra time and distance for pilots to operate the aircraft. To conclude, for a team in a complex system to achieve the required performance, proper SMM is compulsory to mitigate requirements conflicts between different operators. In this case, it enables ATCOs to achieve a proactive mangement in ways which can be accepted by pilots. Furthermore, proper SMM also helps ATCOs to actively provide extra instructions for pilots under contingencies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransdisciplinary Engineering Methods for Social Innovation of Industry 4.0
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 25th ISPE Inc. International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering
EditorsNel Wognum, Josip Stjepandic, Marcello Pellicciari, Cees Bil, Margherita Peruzzini
PublisherIOS Press BV
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781614994398
StatePublished - 2018
Event25th ISPE International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering 2018 - Modena, Italy
Duration: 3 Jul 20186 Jul 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in Transdisciplinary Engineering


Conference25th ISPE International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering 2018


  • Shared mental model
  • Shared situation awareness
  • Situation awareness
  • System risks
  • Unstable approach


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