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Flying high in the cloud

AIL CEO Sharon Cooke Profile

An interview with Airways International CEO Sharon Cooke, published in Air Traffic Management magazine, Issue 3 2023.

ATC training in a mobile simulator at Queenstown Tower, with real-time remote piloting from Christchurch, New Zealand.
ATC training in a mobile simulator at Queenstown Tower, with real-time remote piloting from Christchurch, New Zealand.

Sharon Cooke, CEO of Airways International says their cloud-based suite of products provides customers with flexible high-quality digital solutions – regardless of their location.

Q. Can you tell us about Airways’ cloud-based solutions strategy?

A. We developed our digital solutions strategy in early 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, considering the requirements of a changing aviation industry and the opportunity to use emerging cloud-based technologies. Our focus was to fast track the development of TotalControl (simulation), AirShare (UTM solution) and AKO (Virtual Training Academy).

Q. What are the key benefits to cloud-based solutions?

A. Essentially they provide greater flexibility for our customers. For example, the flexibility to train anywhere and access new types of remote training scenarios. The cloud is also seamless and secure, offering one-click software updates, and advanced backup and monitoring at a much higher level of security than an ANSP-built solution.

Q. Can you provide an example of how Airways is bringing these solutions into the forefront of ANSP tools?

A. TotalControl Sim-in-a-Suitcase is an example of our cloud based digital solutions in action. Our mobile simulator is 100%  deployed in the cloud, can be checked in as luggage on a standard flight and set up in 20 minutes or less upon arrival at the training destination.

Sim-in-a-Suitcase (SIAS) enables virtual training with deployment into towers throughout the country. Remote sim piloting, real time deployment of exercises, as well as monitoring, updates and secure backup all form part of the SIAS software suite. The benefits are frequent training, less staff time off the roster and less travel resulting in reduced ANSP costs.

Q. How have your customers responded to cloud-based solutions?

A. Overall there has been a very positive response. When you consider the cloud, this positions Airways as a competitor to many tech startups, especially with AirShare our UTM solution. This has become a very busy space, and what’s key about our organization vs a tech startup comes from our heritage with a parent company who is an ANSP. We come from inside the industry which means we understand ANSP challenges, and we’re also not being controlled by investors – we’re here for the long run to support our customers.

Q. Can you explain a little more about the importance of being the commercial arm of Airways New Zealand?

A. Our relationship with Airways New Zealand provides a pathway to develop our products and services that can be commercialised globally for the benefit of Airways and the wider aviation community. Airways is a user of our TotalControl, SureSelect and AirShare products, which means that our products are fit for purpose and that we have deep knowledge of the needs and requirements of ANSP customers. Additionally, customers have assurance of NZ Government ownership, ANSP support and a long term commitment to our portfolio of product and services. 

Q. What next?

A. We remain very committed to our digital future. The AirShare team are a partner of the New Zealand Government’s Airspace Integration Trials Programme (AITP) and we’re working with AITP partners in the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) sector, trialling their technologies in New Zealand airspace. Interest in TotalControl and AKO Virtual Academy continues to grow so we will keep building on our capabilities to deliver world-leading simulation and training solutions for ANSPs.