INTEGRATED ATC TRAINING SIMULATOR: A REVOLUTION IN ATM TRAINING
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The phenomenal growth of air traffic since 2004, has taken the whole world by surprise, and India is no exception. In order to provide world class air traffic services, air navigation service providers have adopted various strategies to meet the new challenges. Besides recruitment of manpower, Airports Authority of India has remained committed to improving the training facilities and procuring stateof-the-art equipment, for enhancing the skill level of the air traffic control officers (ATCOS).
The training of air traffic controllers has been mostly limited to ab-initio training at training academies situated at the Civil Aviation Training College, Allahabad; Hyderabad Training Centre, Hyderabad and NIATAM, Gondia. On successful completion of training, the newly recruited ATCOS undergo on the job training (OJT) at the stations. However, due to the increasing volume of traffic, imparting station level training on simulator to the newly recruited ATCOS became essential before they were marked for OJT. Thus, a phase of simulated training was introduced between the ab-initio training at training institutes and the on the job training imparted in the channel with live traffic.
GOALS OF SIMULATOR SYSTEM
In 2010, it was envisaged that state-ofthe-art Integrated ATC Training Simulators (IATS) would be procured at four metro stations, in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The simulator system was called integrated because it provides a simultaneous provision for imparting training at various ATC units corresponding to an airport. The objective of this intermediate training module was to raise the skill levels of a trainee, as consequent to assessment, they are gradually introduced for OJT imparted through accredited OJT instructors. This practice has proven to be very successful, especially for training in
high density airports and air space.
Earlier, there was no possibility of imparting periodic training to the existing certified controllers for maintaining their skill levels. It was envisaged that introducing training programmes and modules would prevent ATCOS from losing touch with the art of controlling traffic during unusual occurrences. For instance, a radar controller with 20 years of experience in ATC, last performed training for handling an aircraft in emergency two decades earlier. With due progression of time, it is understandable that they may lose the efficacy in controlling the aircraft during emergencies and priority handling. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain the skill level of such controllers, so that, at the time of need, they can demonstrate their strength and skill for managing such abnormal situations.
Another advantage of this simulator is to test the new procedures. Keeping safety in mind, it is undesirable to test new procedures with live traffic movement. Even though safety assessment is conducted before promulgation of any new procedure, it is always better to understand the difficulties of both pilots and controllers through realtime simulation with near similar aircraft performance parameters, before submitting the procedure for validation. The highvalued projects at the four metros can also be utilised for other smaller airports in the region. For example, the Trichy and Calicut controllers were called to the IATS site at Chennai for extensive training before the Automatic Dependent Surveillance– Broadcast (ADS-B) was made operational; here, the controllers were assessed prior to certification of authorization.
Another important aspect of this IATS project is to monitor the training activities of four IATS sites for Remote station equipment (RSE) at the Corporate Head Quarters (CHQ), Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, New Delhi. The training data pertaining to each ATCO will be automatically made available at CHQ, so that, the ATM Directorate can supervise the essential training requirement of ATCOS. This includes performance of a minimum number of exercises for unusual occurrences by the existing controllers and by the newly recruited ATC, before they are put to real time OJT with live aircraft.
SIMULATOR TRAINING: AN ESSENTIAL
Air traffic control service is governed by specific rules and regulations which define minimum requirements to maintain safety along with orderly and efficient flow of air traffic. These rules and regulations are prescribed by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and adopted by the nationally designated authorities. The Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOS) provide services which require accurate theoretical knowledge complemented with adequate levels of skills and training. ICAO has prescribed minimum requirements for ATC training within its Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).
In order to optimise the training of the ATCOS, simulators are frequently employed and adjusted to the various stages of development through which the trainees progress. Simulators allow students to experience a virtual airspace which closely replicates the real conditions.
Usage of simulation training devices in ATC training is the best method for acquiring and demonstrating the skills required for the issuance of a license or rating, for gaining complete experience and also in demonstrating continued competency. The adequate level of skills and training must be achieved on the simulation devices where candidates acquire the proper amount of practical exercises for both usual and unusual circumstances. Performing the appropriate practical exercises after acquiring theoretical knowledge has proven to be a useful practice that contributes to the systematic progress of candidates and improves the overall quality of the training process. Using simulators in unit training facilitates further efficient knowledge and skill transfer, thereby increasing safety.
OBJECTIVES OF SIMULATOR TRAINING:
t Streamline the training operations through a proficiency-based training method t Constantly improve and adopt the training approach to better address the needs of training a predominantly young workforce t Implement new training technologies to enhance training delivery and students’ experience, while also supporting changes.
SIMULATION TRAINING: ADVANTAGES
The use of simulators to train candidates specifically for unusual and emergency procedures as applicable to their units is highly beneficial. Simulation training can be progressively adapted to the participant’s
learning processes, which increases the possibility that the subject matter will be more deeply and effectively integrated into the participant’s understanding. Especially, in non-busy environments, and some relatively complex situations which do not occur often or which may take months to appear in reallife, or may even appear when the candidate is off duty. For example, thunderstorms and bad weather conditions are seasonal and therefore simulation training is necessary to equip the trainees with the experience of handling such conditions. In busy environments, the high and complex traffic levels do not always provide the mix of situations which cover all the objectives as described in the unit training plan. For example, low visibility conditions, fog, thunderstorms etc.
CONNECTING ATC AND SIMULATION
Air Traffic Control is a complex task and thus, its training requires sophisticated facilities such as real time simulators. Real time simulation in air traffic control training links theory with practice, knowledge with its application and experience with skills. The students bring to simulation some knowledge of the rules, regulations, principles, procedures, instructions and objectives of air traffic control, while they learn from simulation, how this knowledge is applied through the work bases, equipment, tasks, functions and responsibilities of air traffic control. To some extent, real time simulation for air traffic control training is always dynamic, in that, it responds to the student’s actions and presents situations to which the student must respond. From simulation, the students can gain experience of the following:
t What is easily accomplished and what is difficult?
t What has to be planned ahead?
t What is the optimum timing, sequencing and scheduling of control actions?
t What kinds of error can occur and how can they be detected, resolved or prevented?
t How, when and where does information appear?
t How is information communicated?
t How is information updated, recorded and discarded?
t How are all functions exercised through input devices?
t What actions are initiated by controllers, including their timing and circumstances?
t How much work is there in controlling air traffic?
Simulation can be selective. It can be used to teach and train students on the separate aspects of air traffic control; such as, interpretation of radar information, the use of paper type progress strips or the learning of communication, coordination and liaison procedures. Its use can then be extended to integrate these and other learned aspects into the total air traffic control job. Complex simulations seek to present the complete job, to the extent that the work spaces, human machine interfaces and the displays, with the controls and communication facilities, appear and function in accordance to their real-life counterparts. However, the emotional climate of having the control responsibility for a real aircraft cannot be simulated. Simulation can show the immediate consequences of actions in terms of their effect on traffic configurations and subsequent traffic handling, but it does not cover their wider ramifications such as a controller’s error leading to the filing of an official incident report or certain aspects of the official inquiry. In principle, there seems to be a strong case for including such ramifications in training, though this is neither done nor usually suggested.
The technology of simulation has been, in some respect, revolutionized in recent years for pending technological advances applicable to air traffic control training. Software packages can present simplified ATC problems on the personal computer. More elaborate work stations, including suites for more than one person, can be employed to develop air traffic control skills. Networking encourages simulations for the concurrent training of several groups or several individuals on different aspects of air traffic control with the flexible integration of their activities. Displays, such as videos, aids based on artificial intelligence or expert systems and speech processing can be incorporated into the simulated system. Many training programmes using simulation are evolving from the standardised instructions for students in groups to match training as per individual needs.
Simulation is a vital tool in the introduction of more flexible learning techniques. Another vital role of simulation is to promote immediate knowledge of results, not merely by indicating when the student has made an error, but by revealing its actual and potential consequences, in entirety. Such feedback is essential in learning and is one of the strengths of simulation as a training tool.
The revolutionary concept of IATS in Airports Authority of India is the first of its kind in the world of aviation. The potential of this simulator is enormous as it is equipped to meet the challenges of ATM training. The growth of aircraft movements, mass recruitment of ATCOS and the need for changing procedures to enhance safety has further propelled the need to develop such an encompassing training system.
At AAI, we are constantly endeavouring to enhance the safety system protecting our flyers. The IATS is yet another step in this direction.
Instructors sharpening the skills of trainees
Controllers training at Simulator
ATC Tower, Delhi
Surveillance Simulator training for skill enhancement
PRE-OJT at IGI Airport simulator