In 2011, the FAA installed two airport traffic control tower simulators at the FAA Academy — the FAA’s largest training facility — to complete a flow of investment into simulator technology during the past few years. Because of these simulators, the FAA Academy’s training team is well equipped to deal with the ebbs and flows in hiring. The academy now has the capacity to run more than 500 simulators simultaneously, enabling facilities in adjacent states to use the additional capacity to train their own students.
Measurable training results are not available, but anecdotal evidence is abundant. During interviews, FAA Academy instructors said the investment in simulators helped expose students to essential training procedures necessary for qualification training, such as lining aircraft up to land in a specific order. Instructors also can verify performance before allowing a student to continue to qualification training. If an area for improvement arises, instructors can modify scenarios to target a student’s training needs and help him or her practice specific concepts. Training supervisors and instructors at facilities across the U.S. also said they see positive difference in student success during qualification training because instructors can replay scenarios repeatedly to pinpoint and demonstrate areas of improvement to students in an interactive 2-D or 3-D environment.
As the FAA increases use of simulations in air traffic controller training, it will have access to trending data, which it can use to establish measurable results and compare against previous training years. Simulation technology investment will ensure students are able to spend the maximum amount of time with instructors in a practice-setting environment while continuing to provide the safest possible air traffic environment now and in the future. Anthony Gagliardo is manager of the curriculum and technology group for the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Safety and Technical Training. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.