Air traffic control is one of the most demanding safety critical distributed systems with an enviable safety record. Using computer modelling researchers developed innovative approaches to handling uncertainty when designing such complex safety critical operations.
Its a scary thought, but air traffic brings with it the chance of a mid-air collision. But the safety record of the air industry is excellent, so obviously it works well. "The system has grown in an evolutionary way over decades," says Dr Henk Blom of The Netherlands Aerospace Laboratory in Amsterdam, and coordinator of the IST programme-funded Hybridge project. "It works, but nobody really understand why it works so [well]. If you talk to an air traffic controller, he or she can tell you how it works from one perspective, and also about some scary events where things ran out of control."
"Similarly, [other] explanations and experiences can be heard when you talk to a pilot. In combination, their two stories explain how well pilots and controllers collaborate, but it does not explain at all why the safety records are so extremely good. The most likely explanation why it has become so safe is that the air traffic system evolved in small steps over time and each step took advantage of past experience.”
Tara Morris | alfa
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