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!”