portation system, and (3) the credibility and objectivity to garner the active support of other air transportation stakeholders in government, industry, and the general public. This requires, among other things, a leadership group composed of individuals with a broad aviation perspective and a willingness to accept the risks of (1) looking ahead and (2) allowing others to help define the future.

Finding 2-1. The Challenge. Developing meaningful and useful operational concepts stemming from a broadly defined vision of the air transportation system 25 to 50 years hence is a critically important task in the process of improving the performance of the system.

Recommendation 2-1. Operational Concepts 2050. The federal government, working with other stakeholders in the air transportation system, should develop a coherent set of operational concepts to support a vision for the air transportation system in 2050 to guide (1) long-term research and (2) the evolution of and transition to a more advanced air traffic management system. The set of operational concepts should be continually, objectively, and rigorously evaluated (for example, through comprehensive simulation and modeling) and iterated to reflect feedback from stakeholders, conflicts between alternative concepts, and the best understanding of the future costs, benefits, and requirements that are likely to evolve in response to changes in the real world, the current state of technology and systems operations, and future expectations. Strong national leadership should coordinate the efforts of all involved federal agencies and other stakeholders in the air transportation system to build toward concepts that best support the vision.

Recommendation 2-2. Enabling Technologies. Enabling technologies applicable to a wide range of operational concepts should be developed in parallel with development and evaluation of long-term operational concepts so that the necessary technologies will be ready for whichever operational concept proves to be most beneficial. Technology areas of particular interest include the following:1

  • Automation technologies applicable to fully automated systems; automated decision aids; and information systems for communication, visualization, situation assessment, and the prediction of future conditions.

  • Technologies that support distributed, collaborative decision making and that foster coordination and interactions among multiple human and automated elements of the system.

  • Methods and technologies for moderating and abating the impact of noise and emissions locally, regionally, and globally.

  • Methods and technologies for predicting or directly sensing the magnitude, duration, and location of wake vortices and the potential to reduce separation standards without compromising safety.

  • Methods for identifying (1) the information required for situation awareness when humans are assigned novel (untried) tasks in future operational concepts and (2) sensor, computing, and display technologies for better supporting situation awareness, judgment, decision making, and planning. Relevant technologies include synthetic vision, cockpit and controller displays for novel air traffic management functions, fast-time simulation and computational functions for predicting future conditions, and alerting. These methods and technologies should be investigated for their potential to (1) reduce separation standards without compromising safety and (2) enable changes in the roles of humans within the system.

  • Systems-engineering methods that are (1) capable of conceiving and analyzing systems of the complexity of air transportation and (2) suitable for governing the design, testing, and implementation of these systems.

  • Avionics technologies that will provide ubiquitous and transparent communication, navigation, and surveillance capabilities; enable cost-effective, reliable air traffic management; and contribute to the reduction of separation standards without compromising safety.

Recommendation 2-3. Design of Complex Human-Integrated Systems. The design of human-integrated systems—that is, systems that rely on the combined activities of humans and machines—presents significant challenges at every level, from the systems level (e.g. creating effective teamwork within operations involving many human operators and automated system elements) to the detailed design level (e.g., developing operating procedures and system displays). Research in the following areas is required to understand and address these challenges:

  • A broad, interdisciplinary approach that includes technology designers, users, and experts in human and organizational performance from the earliest stages of conceptual design through final implementation to develop technology that effectively supports human behavior and recognizes the need for concurrent design of procedures, training, and technology.

  • Geographically distributed activities, such as coordinated decision making and planning, that are mediated by computers and automated system elements.

  • Human factors, human-automation interactions, and functioning of teams of humans and automated system elements.


In this and other recommendations that list research areas, the bulleted items are either listed alphabetically or grouped topically. The committee did not prioritize research areas within each list, and bulleted items are not listed by priority.

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