Identification of Important “Party Line” Information Elements and the Implications for Situational Awareness in the Datalink Environment 922023

Air/ground digital datalink communications are an integral component of the FAA's Air Traffic Control (ATC) modernization strategy. With the introduction of datalink into the ATC system, there is concern over the potential loss of situational awareness by flight crews due to the reduction in the “party line” information available to the pilot. “Party line” information is gleaned by flight crews overhearing communications between ATC and other aircraft. In the datalink environment, party line information may not be available due to the use of discrete addressing. Information concerning the importance, availability, and accuracy of party line elements was explored through an opinion survey of active air carrier flight crews. The survey identified numerous important party line elements. These elements were scripted into a full-mission flight simulation. The flight simulation experiment examined the utilization of party line information by studying subject responses to the specific information element stimuli. Some party line elements perceived as important were effectively utilized by flight crews in the simulated operational environment. However, other party line elements stimulated little or no increase in situational awareness. The ability to assimilate and use party line information appeared to be dependent on cognitive workload and the tactical/strategic nature of the situations. In addition, the results of both the survey and the simulation indicated that the importance of party line information appeared to be greatest for operations near or on the airport. This indicates that caution must be exercised when implementing datalink communications in these high workload, tactical sectors.


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