Date of Award

5-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Aviation

Abstract

Maintaining high safety standards is essential for the aviation industry. Reducing the rate of human error throughout the various fields of aviation is essential in order to continue to promote and mitigate aviation incidents. Air traffic controllers work in high stress environments, requiring them to make hundreds or even thousands of individual decisions in regard to aircraft positioning on a daily basis. All it takes is for one small operational error in order for an accident to occur and hundreds of lives to be lost. Understanding potential influences upon air traffic controllers’ decision making processes is crucial in order to improve upon the decisions controllers make and to further enhance aviation safety. Emotional states of mind and stress level may be an aspect to further understand decision making processes. It is well known that an individual’s emotional state and current stress level can impact the quality of a decision. This study investigates the emotional states and current perceived stress levels of advanced air traffic control students and their operational error rates. Twenty-four participants were included from a Midwestern University. Perceived stress appeared to have a relationship with operational error rates. Self-reported emotional states failed to prove significance, but increasingly positive emotional states appeared to correlate with fewer operational error rates. Future implications for research include integrating risk-taking tendencies, personality traits, and the expansion of emotional states to working group environments. The overall relationship between emotional states and air traffic operational error rate remains unclear, but trends appear to be present such as increasingly positive moods potentially relating to fewer operational errors. To further understand emotional states and perceived stress levels in regard to air traffic control operational error rates, more study is needed.

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