by Laura Mowry
11/7/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- To
ensure air traffic controllers here are at the top of their game, tower
personnel train using a high-tech simulator that creates realistic
scenarios that would be encountered during normal day-to-day operations.
"The control tower simulator provides training at the entry- and
journeyman-levels on air traffic control here at Edwards. It provides
three training positions: local control, which controls the active
runways; flight data, which is basically the secretary of the tower,
passing information back and forth; and ground control, which controls
ground traffic," said Chuck Collins, 412th Operations Support Squadron
Air Traffic Control training manager.
"This is an incredible training tool that demands precision from the
trainee. Trainees can learn everything they need to know in a place
where they can make mistakes without consequences. The simulator is
effective and it's a valuable asset to the overall training program," he
Air traffic controllers at Edwards face a number of unique challenges in
addition to the routine stresses associated with their job, including
working with a wide variety of aircraft such as the C-12 Huron, F-35
Joint Strike Fighter, KC-135 Stratotanker and various remotely piloted
aircraft, as the 412th Test Wing and tenant units carry out their
missions of flight test and evaluation.
"For this base, we have virtually every aircraft in the Air Force's
arsenal. We are able to have those aircraft on the screen and put them
into different training scenarios. We need to know everything from how
to integrate them into the pattern to what they look like when they are
taxiing," said Collins.
The simulator's realistic view is created using technology from services
such as Google Maps and gives trainees a complete 360-degree,
photo-realistic view of the Edwards airfield. The display even includes a
visual of aircraft currently parked on the tarmac. Features include the
ability to zoom, pan and track aircraft as they make their final
approach or prepare for take-off.
Combining a realistic visual display of the Edwards airfield with voice
recognition software, the simulator gives trainees a unique dimension of
"What they try to do is provide training as close to reality as you can
get. The trainee speaks into the system, the computer digests what is
said and almost instantaneously it provides feedback. Then you'll see an
aircraft follow the instructions," said Collins.
While personnel undergo training, a supervisor monitoring the session
has real-time access to the information and can provide immediate
feedback to maximize the simulator's effectiveness.
The simulator is an integral component of the air traffic controller's
training plan, particularly for the tower's 13 Airmen just out of
technical school who can expect to spend approximately six months
learning local control, flight data and ground control on the simulator
before having the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in
the Edwards tower.
Whether training new air traffic controllers or preparing more
experienced professionals for circumstances unique to the Edwards, the
simulator ensures that the controllers remain at the top of their game,
keeping all who enter the Edwards airspace safe.
The simulator has been in use at Edwards since 2005 when it was
purchased from ADACEL, a company based in Orlando, Fla. ADACEL provides
air traffic control simulators to not only the Air Force, but sister
services and Federal Aviation Administration at locations around the