Evaluation of workload in air traffic controllers

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This study examined 20 air traffic controllers from the Rome Regional Air Control Centre for three successive work shifts: afternoon (13: 00-20: (0), morning (07 : 00–13 :(0) and night (20: 00––07 : (0). The number of aircraft under control per hour was recorded as index of workload. Recordings involved subjective ratings (mood, physical fitness, fatigue) and objective measures (hean rate, vanilJyl mandelic acid excretion, reaction times, critical flicker fusion, oral temperature). In addition, the subjects fined out questionnaires for personality traits (extroversion, neuroticis, anxiety) and behavioural characteristics (momingness, rigidity of sleeping habits, vigourness to overcome drowsiness). The volume of air traffic varied greatly with peaks during the day and low levels at night. Nevertheless, the heart rates of the group members showed quite constant levels in all the three shifts, irrespective of the workload. The same pattern appeared in the controllers' excretion of VMA, which remained high during both day and night shifts, regardless of the reduced workload. The subjective mood and physical fitness decreased similarly, while feelings of fatigue increased on all three shifts, particularly on the night shift. The circadian rhythm of the oral temperature showed a slight modification of the noctural depression during the night shift, caused by the state of awakeness and activity. However, the rhythm was not altered in its normal circadian phase, due to the fast shift rotation adopted. The psychophysiological responses were affected by personal characteristics, in particular momingness and ability to overcome drowsiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1120
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • Air traffic control
  • Behavioural characteristies
  • Physiological responses
  • Shiftwork
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Psychology(all)
  • Applied Psychology


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