Even though eCoach is an ATC simulator for professional air traffic controller training, the tools included in the eCoach package makes it valuable for a variety of other purposes as well. Any ANSP will typically face a lot of challenges where eCoach can be of great value in risk reduction and cost savings.
Figure 1: Discussing Airport Operations in Low Visibility
In this blog article, we will present eCoach core concepts and how these can be utilized in unexpected areas, thus providing value far beyond the simulator use.
eCoach has some core building blocks that can be combined in various ways to provide synergy effects and thus cost and time savings in large projects. These building blocks are:
- Simulator: The eCoach simulator will transform exercise data into radar data streams and other simulated ATC data. The simulator pilot positions can adjust these data streams while the exercise is running.
- ATC System: The eCoach ATC system will process and present the simulated ATC data coming from the simulator side.
- 3D Tower presentation: This is an optional add-on to the system, which will also receive the data streams but present them as weather and traffic in a three-dimensional airport model.
- Designer: This is stand-alone PC software which is not directly involved in the simulator’s execution of exercises. It is used to define the aeronautical data (SIDs, STARs, taxiways, and so on) and the exercises to be run with the aeronautical data as environment or “ambient data”. The Designer has the components mentioned above built-in, for test and verification of the data produced whether it is aeronautical data or exercises.
The following descriptions are further elaborated in our e-book that you can download for free by clicking here.
For training, it is obvious that the candidate controller needs to train in an environment defined by aeronautical data, usually documented in an Aeronautical Information Package (AIP). However, exercises can be run on environments different from the current AIP; From time to time airspace needs to be adjusted to handle more traffic, deal with new noise restrictions, or for other reasons. eCoach allows such work to be performed at a single office desk, even at home. Simulated traffic can be put on top of the results, for immediate testing.
See also our brochure Airspace Planner.
Figure 2: Investigating Airspace and Airport Operations Using eCoach Designer at Home Office
For quality assurance, it is always good to discuss matters in a broader context and with several persons with various backgrounds. Figure 1 above illustrates how a group of people can use eCoach on a laptop, connect it to a projector in a meeting room, and run traffic to expose key aspects about the proposed new airspace. Standard ATC tools like zoom, pan, vector, and so on are of course available. Also, the running speed can be set from frozen up to 16x normal speed at any time.
The eCoach data files (aeronautical data and exercises resulting from the previous activities) can be brought directly to a full-scale eCoach simulator installation where it can be tested. No changes to the files are needed. The simulator is manned with ATCOs and simulator pilots, and the new airspace is verified to work as expected.
Before the new airspace is put into operation, it is necessary to train the operational controllers in the new environment to ensure smooth transition to new airspace. This is practically the same case as described above, but now with a different purpose and with different ATCO personnel. Adjusted and/or new traffic scenarios can be included. Simulator pilots are already familiar with the airspace.
There are usually procedures in place for publishing new aeronautical data in a standard official way. However, sometimes it can be wise to go a little further to make sure all aspects and all stakeholders are well taken care of. Some options can be as follows:
- Take screen shots or videos directly from eCoach Designer and publish via the ANSP’s web pages, together with other explanatory material.
- Screen dumps of traffic situations including vectors etc. can be included in reports or educational material for illustration.
- Give conference lectures to a larger crowd using eCoach Designer in an auditorium. The presentation can show simulated traffic moving in the new airspace, to highlight aspects of new traffic patterns etc. The crowd can e.g. be airline company representatives like chief pilots.
- Discuss the new airspace as described above in “Discuss Proposed New Airspace”, but this time with a decided airspace and with stake holders as meeting participants.
Note that the above cases together create a workflow, in this case with new airspace as a subject:
- Develop using Designer at a single office desk.
- Discuss and improve the results using Designer in a meeting room with projector.
- Test the results using the same files in an eCoach simulator.
- Train the involved controllers using the same facilities as when testing.
- Educate the masses by
- Making material public on web – material can be created with the Designer.
- Giving lectures.
- Arranging meetings.
The same workflow can be followed with airport operations as subject. The eCoach Designer is used to design new airspace, but also to design an airport with buildings, lighting, parking stands, pushback procedures, taxiways with holding positions, runway entries/exits, and so on. Development or changes to an airport can be subject to the same workflow, where exercises can be made to investigate (i.e. simulate) ground traffic patterns (vehicles and aircraft) under circumstances like:
- Adjusted procedures for low visibility conditions.
- Change of speed restrictions and/or spacing on final to achieve e.g. optimal ground flow.
- Parking stands utilization, including pushback procedures and blocking of taxiways.
- Rush hour conditions with special events happening, like
- Snow removal procedures with convoys.
- Various types of equipment out of service.
- Introduction of new de-icing platforms.
- Testing new operational procedures for missed approach.
- And so on and so on.
When selecting cases like the above, a systematic approach should be used. E.g. address the most serious incident reports, the greatest obstacle for airport capacity under various circumstances, the most work intensive circumstances, the currently worst safety hotspots, and try to find ways to make improvements. Then investigate proposed solutions for improvement using eCoach in the workflow described above.
To build a new airport or make significant changes to an existing one are major undertakings. Risk reduction is imperative. To be able to manage the complexity, the project will often be divided in phases. For each phase, gates are permanently closed or opened, pushback procedures are changed, traffic flows are changed, and so on. These are ideal matters for eCoach to ensure smooth transition to the airport layout in a new phase of construction: All phases can be prepared and investigated before the first phase is even started!
- Project plans are used as input to a single office desk and converted into eCoach aeronautical data and exercises (see Figure 2).
- Results are discussed in meeting room or auditorium (see Figure 1).
- Most promising plans are further evaluated full scale in an eCoach simulator.
- Project personnel are informed about the plans in meeting room or auditorium (see Figure 1).
- Maximum risk reduction in the project.
- Input to a variety of reports like safety assessment, risk assessment, financial, timing, operational plans, and so on.
- High level of understanding among the project’s stakeholders.
See also our blog article about this topic.
In previous chapters, we have discussed how eCoach can be used to illuminate various aspects of airport and/or airspace layouts by using a projector in a meeting room or auditorium (see Figure 1). The exact same method can be used for regular teaching purposes to educate an audience in ATC related matters.
The teacher will connect the laptop to the projector, start eCoach Designer, and present exercises with moving traffic exposing key aspects of the subject to teach. The traffic movements can be fully automated so the teacher can focus on the message to get across to the audience.
- The teacher can pause/run the exercise, change speed, zoom in and out, and so on to highlight key aspects.
- eCoach runs like any other PC program, so other programs are simultaneously available, like
- PowerPoint presentations
- Web pages
- The teacher can use all available matters to provide a mind-blowing presentation, especially in an advanced auditorium with several projectors available at the same time.
As you might have thought while reading the above, the use of human resources is as low as possible:
- A single person is working at a flexible location to plan, develop, and test
- Aeronautical data for airspace and/or an airport
- Exercise data containing traffic (aircraft and vehicles), weather, etc.
- The results can be used without change in a meeting room or an auditorium for discussions. In this case, it is normal to freeze the situation for discussion, run fast to better see the flow, etc.
- Possibly after adjustments at the office desk, the results can be brought to a full-scale simulator for testing under realistic circumstances. In this case the exercises are run at normal speed from start to end.
- Recordings can be investigated at the Designer or in the simulator.
To bring the idea of maximum human resources utilization even a step further, two factors are of interest:
- eCoach Scalability
- Remote Operations
The eCoach system is scalable in several aspects:
- The Designer is stand-alone, meaning that several people can have an individual license each. Results can be exchanged among the users, allowing work on different aspects at the same time. Obviously, more licenses can be added at any time.
- The simulator’s number of working positions can be expanded at any time. Also, a working position can be used as simulator pilot or controller – this is selectable at any time without any physical change to the position.
- The 3D presentation part can be completely skipped, or added at various levels:
- To the Designer installation (see Figure 2).
- Using TV screens in horizontal or vertical arrangement, with selectable width (180 – 360 degrees).
- Using projectors in a cylindrical room.
- A simulator Voice Communication System is an optional component. If included, it provides full radio and telephone capabilities including recording and playback synchronized with the simulated traffic.
Of course, several instances of eCoach can be installed at different geographical locations. This will allow each site to perform autonomous work, but it will also allow remote operations:
In eCoach, both traffic data and voice data can be transmitted over the internet. This allows for specialization and cooperation. For example, consider an ANSP owning the following eCoach equipment:
- Designer licenses installed on various specialists’ job PCs, possibly laptops with docking station both at work and at home office. This would allow less travel to work if admitted by employer. The specialists would be able to cooperate by exchanging eCoach and other types of files, and even run exercises over the internet for discussion purposes.
- One site has a 2D eCoach installation, for airspace development.
- Another site has a 3D eCoach installation, for airport development. TV screens are used to limit space need and cost. A certain minimum of 2D working positions are also included.
- An outsourced training center is available for full-scale simulations. (The center can serve several customers, not only our ANSP.) This center is used for formalized controller training, and full-scale verification of solutions developed at the locations mentioned above.
Add the remote operations aspect to this, and a large range of possible use appear:
- Explore new solutions at the local site, but get help from simulator pilots at the outsourced training center. I.e. run the exercises at the local site, but in the session, talk to the pilots located elsewhere. Observe the traffic at the local simulator.
- Combine approach/ACC airspace and airport operations into larger scenarios run in concert across the internet.
- For final, full-scale run, travel to the center. All preparations would already be taken care of simply by sending in eCoach files.
- And so on.
The idea behind this is to limit travel for valuable human resources. Local equipment availability combined with human specialist resources and more equipment accessible over internet provides maximum flexibility and minimum need to take controllers out of their planned work schedule.
One site can obviously have more than one eCoach installation. To elaborate further on the previous chapter: It is possible to connect an eCoach simulator to an existing ATC system. This means that all the above in this document is true, also allowing training or investigations including the same ATC equipment as used operationally or to be deployed.
See our blog article about this topic.
Finding the right candidates to be air traffic control officers of the future can be a major challenge. Also in this context eCoach can be used for finding the right candidates for ATCO education by e.g. a scenario like the following:
- An ATC specialist is acting as sensor, using eCoach on a laptop PC.
- The sensor travels to the site where the crowd of candidates is. The sensor gives common information to the crowd of candidates, using classroom teaching as described above.
- After this, eCoach is connected to a large screen (e.g. 27 inches) in a separate room.
- The sensor picks one candidate at the time and starts up an exercise.
- The candidate looks at the screen and exposes his ATC relevant skills to the sensor.
- The sensor makes a judgement of the candidate’s capabilities.
The key point of this article is to show that a modern ATC training simulator can be utilized in a lot of areas beside regular ATC training. The cases listed above can even be expanded further. Making use of options like these might reduce risks and save significant amounts of money.
Again: The descriptions above are further elaborated in our e-book that you can download for free by clicking here.