It is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, in every industry, around the
world. The vast majority of flights have been grounded, and the worldwide shortage of Air Traffic Controllers suddenly, in the near term anyway, no longer an industry challenge, with many Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) no longer working at full capacity, and some even being sent home on various work suspension schemes.
The challenge now is keeping ATCOs current to ensure safe and continuous service, and re-starting
or continuing their training whilst following local government guidelines on social distancing whilst
keeping all support and engineering employees safe.
Many Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), airports, academic establishments and military
organisations have moved to training remotely, including the use of ATC simulation.
What is an ATC simulator?
An Air Traffic Control (ATC) simulator is a tool that provides a realistic imitation of the environment
that an ATCO works in. An ATC Simulator is designed to provide a high-fidelity environment in which air traffic controllers can be trained from ab initio through to rating and conversion, as well as specialist applications such as emergency and unusual situations.
With an advanced simulator, further applications include testing, airspace research, procedure
development, and evaluations of any component of the flight service life cycle, from gate to gate.
How to choose an ATC simulator?
Choosing an ATC simulator that is right for your organisation can be a challenge, with a number of
providers offering ATC simulation solutions, ranging from ANSPs to OEMs, start-ups to long
established companies with many years’ experience in the market.
It is always a sensible idea to speak to a number of providers to compare their product in terms of
features, flexibility, scalability and their post-sale service offering, to ensure you future-proof your
investment. Consider looking at references and speaking to existing users of simulators to
understand the capabilities of a simulator, but also what the experience of dealing with the provider was like during delivery, and crucially during any support periods. Simply put, you are going to invest in infrastructure that requires support and service standards your organisation must be able to rely on. To draw as much value as possible from your investment, select a provider that can deliver the full lifecycle experience backed by industry experts you can call on when needed.
What is the BEST ATC simulator?
The BEST ATC simulation software is Micro Nav’s single-solution product, and stands for Beginning to End for Simulation and Training. It is the industry leading solution in the specialist domain of air traffic control simulation, with all applications built into a suite of tools which deliver the ability to train air traffic controllers for en-route, approach and terminal surveillance, and all aspects of tower and apron. With additional capabilities such as voice communications, meteorological and information displays, airfield equipment monitoring, paper/electronic flight progress strips, speech recognition, and bespoke bestin-class 3D rendering, BEST can be used for any type of air traffic simulation. BEST can also provide specialist military capabilities and air battle management. The features are accessible through licences, making it easy for customers to scale up or down depending on the operational requirements and budget available.
Who uses ATC simulators, and how can they be used?
The benefits of using an ATC simulator for a variety of applications, not just for training, is widely
known, and the list below are some examples;
- Colleges train students from ab-initio until they can qualify to continue their training at a unit.
- ANSPs ensure their controllers are familiar with operational systems and procedures used
- within their airspace.
- ANSPs ensure their controllers keep their currency valid, and rate/validate new staff.
- Airports with their different layouts, unique traffic patterns and environmental conditions ensure their ATCOs are familiar these unique configurations and challenges, and although training could be conducted off site, having their own simulation capability adds greater flexibility and ensures minimal impact to the operational manpower demands.
- Military train for layout and procedures at military airfields both local and remote airfields.
- Air Battle Managers train in the radar environment to ensure they are prepared for deployment in conflict zones.
- Airspace design and procedure changes – the flexibility of a simulator can allow a user to quickly modify and test a multitude of scenarios. ATCOs are often running the simulators and have the ability and understanding to model changes accurately and efficiently.
- Emergency training – over and above unusual situations training for ATCOs, simulators can be used to model emergency scenarios involving airport emergency services (e.g. Fire, Ambulance, Police) to work through a variety of scenarios and how situations should be dealt with.
How can the ATC simulator be used remotely?
For years, Micro Nav has offered BEST Remote as part of its single-solution product. BEST Remote allows for collaboration in various formats, connecting multiple BEST ATC systems for remote training or joint simulation. It does so by taking all the features of BEST and extending the capabilities to allow simulations to run seamlessly, regardless of geographic location.
How has BEST Remote changed?
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic change in circumstances and impacted on working
patterns which are unlikely to change in the immediate future. More work is done remotely, and this has brought the benefits of BEST Remote into focus.
The BEST ATC simulation software has always worked on a private cloud, but has now been trialled
and tested leveraging larger, commercially available Cloud platforms.
How does BEST Remote work?
Running the BEST ATC simulation in the Cloud provides the user with the full capability of the BEST
product. The same BEST software version is used, which has incorporated all customer requested features, with the airspace/exercise/weather data being the same as used on any physical BEST system.
The BEST software can be accessed on a range of devices, including desktop, laptop, mobile phone and tablet.
How can BEST Remote help solve my ATCO training challenges?
ATCO training can be conducted without the need for the student and instructor to be at the same location. With a compatible device and an internet connection, the BEST system in the Cloud provides the full range of features available on site, enabling high fidelity training. A remote pseudo pilot can assist the training scenario. Alternatively, BEST Speech can provide a more flexible option, or allow for a greater number of trainees to train simultaneously, reinforcing the instruction from virtual classroom tuition.
- Use BEST Remote as part of your recovery plan
- Help your ATCOs remain current and maintain their pre-COVID-19 competence levels
- Continue or re-start your training programmes
- Support your training where your infrastructure does not account for social distancing
How else could BEST Remote be used?
BEST Remote has been in service for a number of years to assist training providers, including small airports, to share resources, thereby reducing cost and increasing efficiency.
- Joint Simulation
- Two or more BEST ATC simulators can be connected to collaborate with neighbouring BEST users. Benefits include sharing data between sites, training ATCOs simultaneously at different sites recreating real-world scenarios, or testing procedural changes.
- Remote Piloting
- Use simulator pilots located off site, to run training, reducing time off roster for ATCOs to provide pilot activity, or provide training to remote units without training costs. Increase realism in the training environment with remote pilots ensuring ATCOs deal with a range of different pilot characteristics.
Everyone has different requirements and challenges, some are subtly different, others uniquely different. Micro Nav can meet them all with their single-solution product BEST, backed by industry experience and expertise that are second to none.
In these times of COVID-19, and the need to social distance, Micro Nav’s BEST Remote ATC simulation application can assist your training requirements in many ways.
- Run your simulation exercises in the Cloud, safeguarding your students and instructors enabling you to restart your training
- Keep ATCOs current whilst access to your training facilities or training provider is limited
- Utilise remote pilots to help run your training exercise
- Scale your operation to meet demand
Trusted by Air Navigation Service Providers, academic establishments, airports and the military worldwide since 1988, Micro Nav is the award-winning first choice for ATC simulation solutions.