Last updated on November 10th, 2023 at 11:09 pm
So you’re finally remodeling or building a new air traffic control facility! You’re excited to get an upgraded space but also worried about the mistakes you may make. You don’t want your new air traffic control tower or radar room to have the same problems as the old one — or different problems that might have been avoided.
At Russ Bassett, we’ve worked with a lot of ATC teams to build control rooms that all parties — air traffic controllers, tech ops specialists, and other stakeholders — are happy with. Here are a few tips to help you through the process of designing and ultimately building an air traffic control room.
1. Involve Your Team From the Get-Go
When you design any kind of space, especially a mission-critical ATC control room, talking to the end users is paramount. Users may have concerns, ideas, and requests you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. Sometimes there are “flow issues,” choke points or issues that only a few team members are aware of but that likely affect everyone.
When we say you should involve the end users, we don’t just mean the air traffic controllers. We also mean the technical operations people who maintain the equipment. Your tech ops team may have their own unique input about what is and isn’t working about the current setup.
You should also speak with the integrators and the engineers to ensure their concerns are captured, as well as the Supervisory Personnel. Each entity that physically interacts with the room will have some concerns, and it is much better to capture those concerns, understand them, and address them from the outset. Items often overlooked might include light switch location, vacuum placement, storage, shelving, reflections, and the general flow of information around the room.
2. Consider Both Ergonomics and Safety
Ergonomic features help your operators stay healthy and focused. In the long term, they can reduce the risk of repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, or neck and shoulder soreness.
That said, safety concerns and FAA requirements sometimes conflict with operators’ ergonomic preferences. At Russ Bassett, we see a lot of operators requesting sit-stand console height adjustment. Having a platform that moves poses risks to the cabling and wires. The risk of compromising cables by moving them frequently is something that can be mitigated. However, in many cases, our clients decide that the risks involved in a sit-stand setup are not appropriate for an ATC environment.
Another serious challenge with utilizing sit-stand consoles is the line of sight challenge it may pose to not only the operator of that position, but to other controllers in the tower at that time.
We also see lots of requests for KVM keyboard video mouse consolidation. Operators would like to reduce the number of monitors they use and consolidate their use of different applications onto the same monitor. However, with the FAA, you need testing to make sure the redundancy still works and address other concerns. Sometimes KVM consolidation is an option, but it may take some extra work. Often such testing for safety critical functions is costly, time consuming, and arduous.
3. Think Through Your Ideal Air Traffic Control Room Layout
Every air traffic control room has its own workflow. If the room is laid out well for that workflow, things run smoothly. If you choose a layout without much thought, your air traffic controllers may have trouble with sight lines and other issues. Tower runway configurations and traffic movement are different at nearly every airport and can dictate the layout/design of a tower. In a radar room, airspace and the direction of the operation often dictate the way information and traffic are moved through the airspace and throughout the radar room. The design of the positions can often dictate the equipment location and seating.
The people designing your control room need to understand how different positions work. There may be choke points in the room around busier sectors, and supervisors may want seating closer to that area so they can see the planes more clearly.
Storage is also an important part of your layout. Equipment needs to be accessible for both the air traffic controllers and the people maintaining the equipment in the room. At Russ Bassett, we come up with unique console designs that allow for easier equipment access, like the roll-up tambour doors on our Vector consoles and the lift off hoods on our Vertex console storage spaces. Each solution has white LED lighting so that the maintenance personnel can clearly see the equipment in the console.
4. Get Air Traffic Control Room Consoles Designed For 24/7 Use
Many ATC environments operate 24/7/365. That constant usage has implications for the console furniture and other aspects of your design. You need console furniture built to an extremely high standard of durability.
Russ Bassett can help your team throughout the air traffic control room design process. We manufacture highly functional, durable ATC consoles with the end users in mind. We can also help with space planning and layouts.
Contact us today to get started on building your new air traffic control room.