Furniture Design and Ergonomics for Air Traffic Control Rooms


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

The air traffic controller has great responsibility and for this reason, it’s critical that the consoles be as well designed and equipped as possible.

Factors Affecting Design of Air Traffic Control Room Consoles

To start, 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 and walkway space
  • Lighting and placement of communications equipment
  • Space requirements for staff and equipment

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

Ergonomic Solutions for Modern Control Room Furniture Design

The primary goal for control and command center consoles and surrounding furniture is to provide comfort and support to air traffic controllers working extended periods of time under continuous stress. Operator console furniture should be designed such that all equipment is within easy reach and with optimal viewing angles and sight lines toward coworkers and visual aids located throughout the command center. These ergonomic concepts are critical to successful furniture design. Although people vary greatly in shape and size, console furniture is designed to the ‘human norm” with consideration to adjustability and ADA requirements for wheel chair access.

Sound ergonomics say the operator consoles should be designed for ease of use with least impact on how the operator works. The operator console should be an instrument with adjustable features to meet the needs of the individual. These features can include adjustable monitor arms, task lights and phones. Adjustable equipment should be in easy reach and lift above the desktop. Lifted equipment maximizes desktop space and helps keep the desktop clean and uncluttered. An important ergonomic feature often overlooked in ATC are adjustable desktops lifts for operators who need to stand, but can’t leave the space during normal activities. Unfortunately, the operational concept and stationary equipment found in most tower control rooms don’t allow for adjustable work surfaces.

With sound application of modern ergonomics and an understanding of the work being performed, control room furniture can be designed to enhance operational performance and safety as well as influence operator job satisfaction and longevity.

Professional space planners and furniture designer-manufacturers should be engaged to provide the solutions necessary to best meet operational needs within budget.

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