Celebrating 13 years developing the EUROCONTROL Radar Skills Trainer at Graffica
By Dr. Carl Stanton, Graffica Ltd.
The last week of May 2005 marked two very significant occasions for me: first, I started my new job at Graffica in Malvern, assigned to work on a piece of software that was at the time called the Part Task Trainer; second, Liverpool FC won the Champions League as I travelled over to Luxembourg’s Institute of Air Navigation Services for a meeting with the software project’s new leader Vladimir Bubalo. Somewhat bleary eyed after a late flight and the drama of penalties and extra time, we were there to look at some teething problems installing the software in the Institute’s training rooms and to map out the next phase of developments for the software. As someone new to the domain of Air Traffic Control, with a confusing mass of acronyms flying round my brain, it was a relief to be on-site doing some straightforward debugging.
It was also eye-opening for me as a mere software developer to see the expert controllers at work, dealing with an array of numerical information, predicting and planning their next moves with skill and precision. Many of them started their training with limited access to simulator rooms but the Radar Skills Trainer was designed to change all that for modern-day trainee controllers. It was capable of being launched by students on relatively inexpensive hardware and had a special solo ‘hybrid’ mode so that they could practice on their own. As with pilots, trainee air traffic controllers require hours and hours of skills practice and assessment. The Radar Skills Trainer also builds in some automated assessments and tools for instructors to devise assessments for trainees and capture how they perform. Indeed, trainees can walk through an exercise scenario afterwards and can self-assess through visual inspection or seek the guidance of an instructor.
Further developments followed swiftly over the next few years, with the emphasis on user-friendliness and rolling the Radar Skills Trainer out to other training institutions across Europe. We have adapted RST to be launched from new environments – it now integrates with the IANS Training Zone, and runs on Mac, Linux and Windows platforms of all varieties. Users within a training institute can set up and configure their own course management system to build classes of students and allocate exercise schedules, recording all results centrally.
The last few years have been all about minor enhancements – enhancing the tools available in replay, or improving the performance of the built-in pilot-controller voice communication amidst improvements to model complex hold manoeuvres. Now we have reached version 3.3, we have borrowed features from RST’s parent project – the eDEP platform – and added automatic capture on ILS. Paper flight strips are now a thing of the past, with the new Flight List view at the controller position. Aircraft labels are now more configurable, with user-selectable fonts across all the tools in the Radar Skills Trainer.
Where next for the Radar Skills Trainer? Only the users can tell us, but we already know that correct voice communication is one of the basic skills that trainee controllers must master. Wouldn’t it be good to hear a live voice playback alongside the simulation replay?
For further information on the RST Project please visit: