TotalControl simulators have been used to train Airways air traffic controllers since they were first developed more than 15 years ago. Airways is now utilising mobile desktop TotalControl simulators to deliver training to ATCs in regional towers throughout New Zealand, and simulator pilots working remotely to increase sim training efficiency and frequency.
Airways has deployed TotalControl mobile desktop simulators to several regional towers for training ATCs, enabling simultaneous sim training across multiple locations as a safe and effective remote training solution that requires no travel for ATCs.
Dean Urquhart, ATS Manager Planning & Performance for Airways, says mobile simulation enables Airways to take a much more agile approach to training ATCs, providing flexibility and assurance that training can continue even when ATCs are unable to travel.
“We’re really excited to have introduced mobile simulation with remote sim piloting into our training across Airways,” Dean says. “It provides us with many more training opportunities for ATCs needing to refresh their skills – it’s particularly helpful for providing response training for controllers who need to train for particular scenarios.”
Mobile simulation supports Covid-19 recovery
Covid-19 border and travel restrictions meant controllers in New Zealand have had a sustained period of controlling lower than usual traffic levels. Training in the simulator is critical to ensuring they maintain their skills managing busier traffic loads, so they are competent and confident when traffic ramps back up to pre-Covid levels.
“Traditionally our ATCs have needed to travel to our facilities in Christchurch to train in the simulator – this has obvious impacts on roster capacity, and on cost. When Covid-19 hit and our controllers were unable to travel to train, mobile simulation was critical to keeping their skills refreshed and current,” Dean says.
“We’ve been deploying the mobile simulators to regional towers to support their training programmes. While it has taken our ATCs some time to adjust, as they gain more experience they’re starting to think about how mobile simulators can be used for further training.”
Less disruptions, more training with remote sim piloting
Airways International is also providing remote simulator piloting as a tool to help ANSPs reduce training costs, minimise time off roster for ATCs, and enable greater flexibility in sim training with the ability for pilots to work from anywhere.
Controllers from Dunedin, Woodbourne & New Plymouth Towers have recently undertaken training in mobile sims set up at their tower locations, supported by simulator pilots working from home.
“Having the ability to pilot exercises remotely allows us to plan training more efficiently. During these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, this means we can continue training safely with less disruptions,” Dean says.
Jon Brooks, Chief Controller at Queenstown Tower, leads a team of 10 air traffic controllers who managed approximately 600 daily aircraft movements pre-pandemic. Queenstown Tower was one of the first regional towers in New Zealand to implement mobile simulators for training purposes.
Training to date completed in the mobile simulator includes re-current training that previously required staff to travel to Christchurch four times a year.
“Mobile simulator training allows controllers to refamiliarise themselves with the fast-paced communication and processing required in a post-pandemic environment,” Jon says. “Alongside this, the mobile simulator gives controllers clarity in procedures, and reinforces correct applications and practice time on site.”
The mobile simulator has been used in Queenstown to validate new internal processes. “With aircraft movements below pre-pandemic times, there was less opportunity to trial improvements in a live airspace. The simulator confirmed that these were positive and improved safety.”
The Queenstown Tower team has also used the mobile simulator in a ‘show-and-tell’ training opportunity with other aerodrome users. Local customers of air traffic services, such as airlines, airport Duty Managers, ground crew, and airport users were able to see the wider impact of their actions. This simulated exercise helped improve the efficiency and safety of the aerodrome as users better understood the consequences of their actions on the wider system.
The team found the simulator equipment easy to set up and use – it is easily packed into three suitcases, and while the monitors are smaller than the sim monitors in the Christchurch Training Centre, the mobile simulator works well for particular exercises.
And, having simulator pilots working remotely “was as good as them being in the next room,” Jon says.
The Queenstown International Airport tower team looks forward to continuing to use the mobile simulator for training exercises and to adjust to future aerodrome developments, alongside the 12 other New Zealand regional towers using this technology.
It’s leaps and bounds ahead of where simulation technology was at when Jon first trained as a controller – “A lot has changed from 30 years ago, when we had to push model planes around with pencils and pretend to phone someone!”
The Airways Training centre was opened in the 1950s, and has the capability and expertise to deliver courses to both first-time controllers and seasoned professionals. The instructors behind each student’s journey collectively have over 85 years of experience in the training environment.
Airways Training Instructor Richard Lange has taught students from over 10 countries over the past six years, and has travelled to Kuwait, Vietnam, and the UAE during his time as an instructor. He shares a little bit about himself below…