How to meet today's ATM challenges
October 6, 2022
An ATC simulator is generally associated with personnel training. However, with clever use, this technology can provide significant benefits in other areas, too
Investments in ATM will frequently imply high cost and complexity. The quality must satisfy
demanding safety requirements, and timing is often essential. As a result, the list of risk factors gets uncomfortably long. This applies to several areas: physical airport projects, airspace design, safety/efficiency improvements in airspace or airport operations under various conditions, ATM system developments, and so on. Another challenge is the, increasingly popular, introduction of remote tower operations. So, how can an air traffic control (ATC) simulator help?
To provide a training environment, an ATC simulator must generate traffic movements in an airspace with airports, weather and more. Such a simulator can offer major benefits to air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and the supplier industry in several ways, beyond the training aspect. Here, we explore some of these benefits.
Checking quality of function
Before a major development of an airport or an ATC system (including a remote tower system), the functional aspects can be explored in the simulator. The final product must work correctly, but it must also be doing the correct function. The eCoach ATC simulator can provide airport
model changes within a few days' delivery, enabling simulated full-scale operation in the planned operational environment before a real-world taxiway is closed Similarly, complex ATC system functions can be produced quickly in the simulator and tested in detail before a large, safety
critical ATC system is changed. The eCoach simulator even enables easy experimentation with remote tower camera locations and heads-up display (HUD) arrangements for single- or multi-airport operations.
Reducing risk and time
The result of simulator prototyping and testing will reduce the risk of introducing the wrong airspace or the wrong ATC system presentations, for example. Aircraft fuel consumptions before and after an airspace change, radio workload, and many other aspects can be extracted from simulations. Also, after conclusion, accurate specifications for the main project can be produced, helping estimates for development and other risk factors. Time estimates will then often be shorter, due to clear specifications and efficient project communication. Results from simulations can often be used in safety analyses reports.
The aspects mentioned so far have significant impacts on the cost of a large-scale ATM project. Shorter delivery times until operational use also help the return-of-investment figures. The cost of the ATC simulator itself will often be returned on the first main project delivery. Thus, an in-house ATC simulator can be a good investment for a major ATM industry supplier. For an ANSP, it can also provide training services.
Training across organisations
The eCoach ATC simulator is made for training of flight information service officers (FISO), as well as air traffic control officers (ATCO). The simulator offers scalable training for ground operations,
tower, approach, and area control. Remote tower training is supported in both single-and multi-mode operations. Thus, the simulator can be used solely as a training centre main installation.
For flexibility, the simulator must cover realistic processing of each flight, gate-to-gate. This enables focus on the flight phase(s) of interest, such as ground and tower control at an airport. The rest of
the flight (approach, departure, ACC, and tower/ground at the other airport) is fully
automated, yet available to override, using simulator pilot features. Based on a few data values, such as aircraft type and route, eCoach will calculate the complete path — on the ground and in the air — based on the data models of airspace and airports. Since real-life data are used for these models, the simulator behaviour is very realistic. As in real life, the (sim) pilot can alter the flight progress any time, based on controllers' instructions. So, if a set of representative traffic scenarios are defined, the same set can be used for testing airspace changes of various kinds, introduction of approach training, and so on.
What if training and other activities are needed at the same time? This is no problem, since any eCoach working position(s) can be assigned to a simulation scenario independent from the other
working positions in the system. Several scenarios can be running at the same time, with individual airspace, airports, traffic, and so on. In other words, the groups of end users can work completely
independent of each other, as if each group had the simulator for themselves. This way, the same simulator installation can support aerodrome expansion plan testing, applying low-visibility conditions, at tke same time as candidates are getting final exam simulation runs on the remote tower environment for another airport, for example. It is only limited by the number of available working positions — which can be expanded any time and anywhere.
Covid-19 and remote operations
In times impacted by the pandemic and related restrictions, how can personnel work efficiently? Well, each working position can be located anywhere, provided it has a connection to the one
and only server in the system. This means the eCoach simulator can span any location in the world, including home offices. Each simulation participant only needs to connect to the server. After that,
every function is equal, regardless of physical location.
With the eCoach Cloud server, personnel can work on specialised topics independently, focusing on their area of expertise. Still, the simulator system serves efficient collaboration in a truly multi-discipline environment.
The eCoach Designer
To bring independent use even a step further, all the simulator functionalities are included in a single software installation package. This is called the eCoach Designer and contains exercise production, recording/playback, full simulator pilot functionalities with military formations, visual-flight-rules traffic, vehicle maneuvers, weather changes, and so on. It can operate disconnected from the system server, on a laptop on the beach, airport terminal, in a plane/train, at home, or any other location. With a docking station, multiple large displays can be included easily, even with out-of-tower presentation. All of this enables airport or airspace (re)design and scrutiny, training
programme production, safety investigations, and a whole range of other uses to meet today's challenges.
Remote tower simulations in Avinor — Norway's ANSP
Edda Systems is providing the eCoach to Norway's Avinor, as its ATC simulator solution for remote towers. For its training positions, this solution will use contingency positions for the operational
system. If needed for operational use, the eCoach simulator processing is completely separated in a matter of minutes, and the working position is fully operational on real-world traffic. In this setup, the exact behaviour of the Ninox Remote Tower solution is recreated in the eCoach simulator, even using the same hardware devices. Multi-mode operations are available, thanks to the gate-to-gate capability of eCoach — the same working position can control a flight's departure from one airport
and later arrival at another airport. Simulator pilot positions are in three geographic locations, due to the eCoach remote operations architecture. This enables both central and local piloting resources, even simultaneously. "The eCoach procurement ensures that the Bodø Remote Towers Centre gets a modern simulation capacity, including simultaneous operations across multiple airports from the same working position", said Jan østby, Avinor's manager for the remote towers
programme. "It is an important piece in achieving the effects of our remote towers investments," he concluded.