The captains behind the scenes

A Departure Sequencing Tool (DST) is a digital system that helps air traffic controllers to better plan and manage international and domestic departures at airports. Veryday was asked to design an innovative DST to be used at Arlanda, Stockholm’s international airport and the main entry point into Sweden.

At Arlanda, the previous departure tool was old and still based on the metaphor of moving around and stacking paper labels (representing flights) on top of each other. It was time to change the way of working to make better use of available new technology and to create a truly user-friendly interaction design.

The goal was to create a system that enhances the air traffic controllers’ precision in their predictions for takeoff time to Eurocontrol (the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation) allowing for tighter and safer traffic in areas with a dense flight schedule. The DST should also help minimize the time flights have to spend waiting in line before take off, saving vast amounts of fuel each year, while at the same time making travelling quicker for the passengers.

Our designers developed a new flight labeling system and visualized it through advanced wireframes, which were then tested based on importance ranking, glanceability and frequency of use. As suspected, information is variously important at different points before takeoff. The wireframes were reworked, coded and regularly tested by the air flight controllers, with real-time simulated data. Several collaborative workshops were held to establish a common understanding and to share ideas. This turned out to be vital to the process.

<boxing>Air traffic controllers must process large amounts of crucial information every day in order to guarantee safety for passengers and crew, so making changes in their routines must be done collaboratively and with everyone on-board. Various activities like card sorting were done to present and discuss pros and cons regarding different approaches to information organization and the graphic user interface.</boxing>

The DST is a huge improvement for our work, I just wish that all our applications worked and looked like this. We love it! What we also really appreciated was how you involved us during the entire process. Why don't all projects work like that?

Air traffic controller, Arlanda Airport

Evaluations were also done on-site in the Arlanda control tower to check readability, brightness, colors and how well the new user interface works with the current line up of screens. The preferences of our users changed dramatically when seeing the system on site rather than in our project room. The lesson learned: never underestimate on-site assessments!


We ended up entirely re-inventing the mental model for how to perceive runways and upcoming flights. The new DST, currently implemented and used around the clock at Arlanda, offers a dramatically better overview, a faster perception of the current situation and an easy way to make prognoses of the near future. The users can easily interact with the content; creating and moving flights, maintenance slots and priorities. Everything is clearly labeled, but still subtle enough to meet the requirements in a dark control tower. Veryday’s role in the project included user studies, interaction design, visual design and frontend development. Backend development was done by Ecru Consulting AB.