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Furniture Design and Ergonomics for Air Traffic Control Rooms

Air traffic control (ATC) and airport security are two of the most critical operations in airport facilities. The nerve center of these activities is the air traffic control room. Air traffic controllers guide aircraft on the ground and in flight and perform important safety and flight operations.

The air traffic controller has a great responsibility and, for this reason, it is essential that the consoles are designed and equipped in the best possible way.

Factors that influence the design of the consoles of the air traffic control room

To begin with, there are no standard designs for airport control rooms; therefore the following factors should be considered.

  • Overall shape and size of the tower control and command room
  • Work space and walkway
  • Lighting and positioning of communication equipment
  • Space requirements for staff and equipment

All the factors mentioned above influence the design of the modern ATC control room consoles.

Ergonomic solutions for the modern design of the control room furniture

The main objective of the consoles of the control and command centers and surrounding furniture is to provide comfort and support to air traffic controllers who work for long periods of time under continuous stress. The operator console furniture must be designed in such a way that all equipment is easily accessible and with optimal viewing angles and lines of sight to colleagues and visual aids located throughout the command center. These ergonomic concepts are central to the success of furniture design. Although people differ greatly in shape and size, console furniture is designed according to the “human standard” in view of the adjustability and ADA requirements for wheelchair access.

Solid ergonomics say that operator consoles should be designed to be easy to use with minimal impact on operator operation. The operator console should be a tool with adjustable functionality to meet the needs of the individual. These features can include adjustable monitor arms, activity lights and telephones. Adjustable equipment must be easily accessible and liftable above the desktop. Raised equipment maximizes desktop space and helps keep the desktop clean and tidy. An important ergonomic feature often overlooked in ATC are the adjustable table lifters for operators who have to stand, but cannot leave the space during normal activities. Unfortunately, the operational concept and stationary equipment found in most tower control rooms do not allow for adjustable work surfaces.

With a solid application of modern ergonomics and an understanding of the work done, the control room furniture can be designed to improve operational performance and safety, as well as influence the satisfaction and longevity of the operator’s work.

Professional space designers and furniture designer manufacturers should be committed to providing the necessary solutions to best meet operational needs within budget.


by Jerry Herrington

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