An ATC simulator can be many different things. This blog post is limited to the eCoach Air Traffic Control Simulator, for which the main purpose is to enable education of professional air traffic controllers. Education can be to train a person to become a certified air traffic controller (ATCO = Air Traffic Control Officer) or provide continuation training in order to maintain authorization.
Figure 1: An eCoach ATC Simulator Installation
An ATCO at work will get informed about the traffic situation based on several sources:
Various computer displays presenting radar data, flight plan data, parking situation, and more. Altogether, this is referred to as an ATC System, or Air Traffic Control System.
If the ATCO works in a tower, he will also look out the window and observe the airport directly. This is reproduced by the 3D Tower part of the simulator.
The ATCO also needs to talk with other people. This is achieved via a Voice Communication System – VCS. It serves both telephone and radio communication.
In order to train the ATCO in a realistic manner, all the above need to be present in the simulator. However, it is not enough: An ATC system will get its data from live operational radar sensors and other sources. In the simulator, there is a separate part – the Air Traffic Data Generator – handling this aspect.
Figure 2: eCoach ATC Simulator Overview
How it Works
The traffic to handle in the training session is specified up front in an exercise and loaded in the Air Traffic Data Generator (DG). When the session is started, the DG will produce data similar to a real radar sensor and send it to the ATC System. Also, other data like Flight Plans and weather data are sent. The data will be presented at the Student ATCO’s screens similar to an operational ATC system. Also, if a 3D Tower system is installed, the airport is presented with all its traffic, buildings, weather, etc.
Based on this input, the student ATCO will do his work and issue commands via the VCS to the simulated aircraft. The person hearing these commands is the simulator pilot, who sits at a pilot working position connected to the DG. To respond to the ATCO’s command, the simulator pilot will make inputs to his working position and also read back to the ATCO via VCS. The DG will now adjust its data production according to directions given by the simulator pilot.
As a net result, the student ATCO can observe that the commands issued are being followed.
There is no limit to the number of ATCOs or sim pilots. The eCoach ATC Simulator supports training from gate to gate, where all personnel work in concert – Ground/Tower controllers, Approach/Departure controllers, and area controllers (ACC).
The eCoach ATC System
An operational ATC System will usually consist of several systems from different vendors, forming a total ATC system when installed together in an ATC center or tower. The eCoach ATC System realizes all of this in the same system:
Radar Data Processing System – handling surveillance data.
Flight Plan Data Processing System – handling flight plan data.
Surface Movement Guidance and Control – airport surveillance of aircraft and vehicles.
Airport Lighting System – allows ATCO control of airport lights like stop bars.
Parking System – presents aircraft parking situation.
Electronic Flight Strips – optional, if paper strips are not used in the position.
Real-time Flight Progress Strips – printed at responsible position in due time.
Information System – presenting METAR, TAF, navaids status, wind roses, ATIS, and more.
The data are presented in various windows similar to operational systems. To be able to replicate the workplace situation for the ATCO under training, user interfaces can be easily adapted, and the settings stored for later use.
The eCoach simulator also supports Remote Tower simulations, including special features like Pan/Zoom/Tilt camera, aircraft labels on the Head Up Display (HUD), and more.
The eCoach ATC Simulator Voice Communication System
The VCS serves radio and telephone communication according to international specifications. It is easily configurable to the training site’s operational setup regarding frequencies in use, and fixed telephone peers.
After a training session has been run, recorded data can be played back in synch with the simulated traffic. Recorded data can be archived for later playbacks, e.g., for teaching, demonstration, or discussion purposes.
The eCoach 3D Tower System
As explained above, the purpose of the 3D Tower system is to present an airport as it is seen out of the tower windows. This can be achieved in several ways:
At a workstation with several computer displays.
With one or more workstations and TV screens.
With several workstations and projectors.
The 3D Tower system is optional and not needed if the simulator is not for training of ground or tower controllers. It can be added to an existing eCoach simulator at any time.
Figure 3: eCoach ATC Simulator with TV Screens for 3D Tower
The eCoach Air Traffic Data Generator
The Air Traffic Data Generator (DG) transforms all exercise traffic into radar tracks and other types of data. The way this is done determines much of the realism in the simulation. From experience with e.g., simulating 20 airports in Norway, with feedback from local instructors and ATCOs from each airport, this is optimized in eCoach. Scenarios served are for example:
Regular air traffic with all major aircraft types, from turboprops and business jets to heavy aircraft.
Helicopters for offshore traffic or other purposes.
Military operations like AWACS, transport aircraft, and fighter formations.
VFR traffic with ultra-light aircraft, pilot school aircraft, small helicopters, and more.
Vehicles like fire trucks, fuel trucks, plow trains, and other ANSP vehicles for bird scaring, follow me etc.
An ATCO at work will get informed about the traffic situation based on several sources: that one or very few simulator pilots can leave the traffic untouched in most cases, except enabling clearances. Still, the sim pilot can override and maneuver at any time, in order to introduce emergency situations or other training aspects. The sim pilot can also change the simulated weather, take out navaids, and control a variety of other training aspects.
Figure 4: Realistic Presentation of any Aircraft Maneuver
To see eCoach in action, please play videos on the Download page.