Fort Hill Group conducted a comprehensive human performance safety assessment on the transfer of aircraft identification to identify key impacting factors and to develop mitigations.

Members of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Human Factors Research and Engineering Division identified an increase in voluntary safety event reports related to the process of transferring aircraft identification. This aircraft handoff process involves a controller issuing a new communication frequency to the pilot and transferring the control of the aircraft to the controller in the next airspace sector. The FAA Human Factors Division enlisted Fort Hill Group to conduct a human factors safety assessment to identify the causal factors associated with these safety events occurring during handoff operations. An Air Traffic Analysis and Classification System (AirTracs) assessment of handoff-related narrative-based safety reports from the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) was conducted. The analysis identified the leading contributing factors associated with handoff safety events along with the most prominent causal factor trends and patterns.

Recommendations and mitigation strategies for each contributing factor and the underlying trend were developed and described. The primary recommendation of this assessment targeted the various ways in which the automatic handoff feature can become disabled or inhibited. The results of this assessment aided the development of a Corrective Action Request regarding the automatic handoff feature that was delivered to the FAA’s Office of Safety and Technical Training. The request enumerated the methods of inhibiting the automated handoff feature and identified the need to educate controllers on the different ways that the automatic handoff feature can be inadvertently disabled or inhibited. The final report further detailed the other key causal factors and mitigation strategies for managing the effect of those causal factors. The project further explored the impact of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies on the causal factors impacting current handoff operations.

For more information on the handoff assessment, download Human Factors Assessment of Air Traffic Handoff Process using ATSAP Reports.