Scanning the Horizon: Naval Air Traffic Controllers to Get New Simulator System

IDGA Editor

Aimed at reducing production costs and upgrading outdated technology, the Department of the Navy launched the Air Traffic Control Tower Simulator System, known as ATC-TSS, with the first delivery installed March 22 at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla.

A total of 38 simulators are scheduled for delivery at 34 Navy and Marine Corps installations and will replace the existing Tower Operating Training System (TOTS) as well as provide low-cost proficiency training.

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"Implementing a commercial trainer solution and leveraging the work done by the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Force and academia demonstrates our desire to provide quality and affordable training solutions," said Capt. John Feeney, Naval Aviation Training Systems (PMA 205) program manager, whose office oversees the ATC-TSS program.

"The goal is to upgrade technology and increase daily training accessibility while simultaneously reducing operating time and life-cycle cost."

The TOTS, originally fielded in 1991, provided synthetic training to military air traffic controllers. Because of outdated technology, a decrease in the visual capability and issues with the speech recognition program, the Navy decided to replace it with the commercial system currently used by the Army, Air Force and public sector.

The new system, developed by UFA, Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., supports individual or team training and has both out-of-the-window and binocular views. The product offers 3-D graphics with simulated weather information, airfield lighting and integrated radar displays, as well as simulation of other key tower systems.

Another capability includes a photo-realistic airport database for each site and moving models that prepare air traffic controllers to choreograph real-life aircraft movement.

"The ATC-TSS is a new tool for Navy air facilities and replaces outdated technology at various Marine Corps sites," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Dugard, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division ATC training systems lead. "The first device will be utilized at Naval Station Key West, Fla."

Naval air traffic controllers, also known as swivel heads, are responsible for safely and effectively directing aircraft operating from airfields or the flight decks of aircraft carriers and perform duties similar to their civilian equivalents.

"Our air traffic controllers are the military’s bird’s-eye view," Dugard said. "They hone their skills through synthetic training. The ATC-TSS has built-in scenarios encompassing emergency situations and daily routines. Proper training ensures they are detail-oriented, work well in stressful situations, adhere to strict standards and are decisive."

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

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