|Air Traffic Controllers Hone Skills With Virtual Reality |
Air Traffic Controllers Hone Skills With Virtual Reality
By Jennifer Valentin, 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs.
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas -- March 8, 2001 (AFPN) -- Senior Airman Shahid Gill "looks out" over the airfield from the east control tower here. He maintains surveillance of aircraft and ensures they maintain separation and assigned ground tracks.
Senior Airman Shahid Gill (left) uses a head-mounted virtual reality display to complete computerized training scenarios controlled by Airman 1st Class Paul Polanco. Both airmen are assigned to the 12th Operations Support Squadron and are part of a test being performed on the Air Traffic Control Virtual Reality Simulator at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
Photo by Jennifer Valentin
After making sure all aircraft land safely, he removes his head-mounted display and takes a seat to review his performance with his trainer.
Gill and other air traffic controllers here are using the high-tech advantage of virtual reality to develop their job skills. The focus of the training is the safe handling of aircraft.
Randolph is the first Air Force base to test the prototype Air Traffic Control Virtual Reality Simulator, said Master Sgt. Steven May, chief of air traffic control training for the 12th Operations Support Squadron here. Three other bases, Altus and Vance Air Force Bases in Oklahoma, and Luke AFB in Arizona, are scheduled to receive the virtual reality device for evaluation by the end of march.
The simulator is designed to reduce the time it takes to effectively train tower air traffic controllers, May said.
Under an evaluation that will last through 2001, controllers at the four test bases will put the virtual reality trainer through its paces to determine if the simulator saves time and money, while providing better training for controllers.
So far, it's lived up to billing, May said. It will provide more realistic training for apprentice controllers before they actually step into the tower.
Two controllers are involved in the process, a trainer and a trainee. The trainer operates a computer to generate maneuvers for the virtual reality aircraft. The maneuvers are then merged to form a flight profile. Several profiles are combined to form a training scenario.
The trainee wears the head-mounted display, which provides a virtual presentation, as if the trainee were standing in one of Randolph's two towers. The trainer and trainee communicate with each other through headsets.
"We feel very fortunate to be the first Air Force base to have this opportunity," said Staff Sgt. James Shad, chief of standardization and evaluation for the 12th OSS. "I believe our apprentice air traffic controllers will be able to use the simulator to enhance their training, and it should help to fully certify them in a shorter amount of time."
The high-tech system has met with approval among 16 Randolph controllers who have used it so far.
"I like the virtual reality trainer because it is just what new trainees would need to get over the initial stage of fright," said Airman 1st Class Paul Polanco, an air traffic controller with the 12th OSS. "I have a feeling now of what to expect."
- Randolph Air Force Base