A Workflow Perspective in Aviation

  • Guy André BoyEmail author
Part of the Health Informatics book series (HI)


During the last three decades, aircraft cockpits have been highly automated and incrementally digitized to the point that we now talk about “interactive cockpits”, not because pilots interact with the mechanical part of the aircraft directly, but because they use a pointing device to interact with computer screens. More generally, computers invaded the airspace ranging from onboard aircraft to air traffic control (ATC) ground services. In terms of workflow, the elimination of the flight-engineer onboard commercial aircraft cockpits drastically transformed the way pilots fly—this was done in the beginning of the 1980s. Pilot’s activity shifted from manual control to cognitive management of embedded systems (performing some of the tasks the flight engineer used to do). Aircraft automation considerably improved commercial aviation safety. Today, main issues come from the exponential increase of the number of aircraft in the sky. Air traffic complexity imposes drastic reengineering of air traffic workflow. ATC is shifting towards air traffic management (ATM). Same thing: moving from control to management, expanding cockpit’s single agent problems and solutions to air traffic multi-agent problems and solutions. The main emphasis is therefore social cognition. During the twentieth century, we automated physical systems—we now talk about cyber-physical systems (i.e., we shifted from hardware mechanical engineering issues to software cognitive problems). During the beginning of the twenty-first century, almost all systems are first ideated and designed as pieces of software, and they are transformed into tangible things. Consequently, workflow can be modeled and simulated very early during the design process and, unlike during the twentieth century, functions and therefore activities can be tested before anything is physically built. This provides great possibilities that should be operationalized and implemented. This chapter will show that the main issue has become tangibility, instead of automation. At the same time, these new possibilities provided by our emerging digital world enable a brand-new move towards more autonomous systems that need to be coordinated. We will illustrate this shift from automation towards autonomy, by providing salient examples and generic patterns of this evolution of workflow in the aviation domain.


Automation Cognitive management Safety Complexity Air traffic management Social cognition Cyber-physical systems Modeling and simulation Human centered design Tangibility 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FlexTech ChairCentraleSupélec (Paris Saclay University) and ESTIA Institute of TechnologyBidartFrance

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