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Sharon Cooke, CEO, Airways International Ltd
Airways International Ltd (AIL) has reimagined the way it designs, deploys, and delivers its air traffic control simulators globally, following the immense challenges facing the business as a result of border and travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
Signing a contract with Avinor Air Navigation Services (ANS) in May 2020 to install 16 TotalControl simulators across six sites throughout Norway, AIL needed to think and act innovatively to meet the project deliverables.
With the Airways and Avinor ANS teams working thousands of kilometers apart and with travel restrictions in place, a creative approach was required to meet the first key challenge of a 1 October go-live date for the Oslo Airport tower simulator – the deadline enabling Avinor ANS to commence training as air traffic ramped up again.
Oslo Airport was the first installation to be completed out of the six towers, four surveillance, and six mobile simulators across the six sites. As Covid-19 swept its way around the world, creating global havoc, the AIL team quickly kicked into gear and started to put its Covid-19 mitigation plan into place for the project.
“The Covid-19 pandemic meant we had to transform the way we operate in terms of simulator design, deployment, installation, and training,” says AIL CEO Sharon Cooke. “Our team spent many hours ensuring the Avinor ANS experience was seamless in all project phases, despite being on the other side of the world.”
For all five simulator site installations completed so far, remote factory acceptance testing (FAT)has occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand, with the team from Avinor ANS participating from Norway. AIL’s simulator specialists then guided local technicians through the installation of hardware and used the Airways Knowledge Online (AKO) Virtual Training Academy to deliver training to the Avinor ANS team. Finally, site acceptance testing was undertaken with the innovative use of technology to enable AIL staff to engage remotely from New Zealand.
Our team spent many hours ensuring the Avinor ANS experience was seamless in all project phases, despite being on the other side of the world
“The collaboration, innovation and huge work ethic of the AIL and Avinor ANS teams to achieve this in a short timeframe speaks to a new paradigm of cross-border cooperation and teamwork in our industry,” Ms. Cooke says.
“We have collectively learnt that physical distance is no longer a barrier to working together, and great things can be achieved by tackling the challenges head-on and believing in our people and our processes.”
The Oslo Airport simulator installation was the first TotalControl simulator to be installed remotely by AIL. The team also believes that the remote installation and site acceptance testing is first internationally.
Ms. Cooke says the feedback from Avinor ANS on the remote installation process has been overwhelmingly positive.
“They told us that their hands-on participation was more engaging than a typical face-to-face site acceptance testing process, and helped to cement their simulator training. This signals a new way of working for us all,” she says.
The success of the Avinor remote simulator installation and the commissioning project has opened the door to a new approach to simulator deliveries as the world recovers from the impacts of Covid-19. Empowering customers to take ownership of hardware procurement and installation, supported by world-class training and support, has numerous benefits for both the customer and AIL as a supplier.
These benefits include a smaller carbon footprint; cost savings through locally procured hardware; reduction of travel; a higher level of engagement from onsite end-users through increased involvement in the installation phase; and reduced delivery timelines as shipping and travel bottlenecks are removed.
The next step for AIL and its TotalControl simulator technology is the development of cloud-based simulation solutions to support future remote training.
A part-task trainer has been developed, which enables surveillance controllers and students to practice situations using voice recognition in their own time using a personal computer. Further development on the part-task trainer is underway to improve voice recognition capabilities for tower-based training and to provide analytics and insights for trainees and instructors.
Following the lockdowns in New Zealand due to Covid-19, Airways quickly established working solutions to enable remote simulator training for both tower and radar and is now looking to build on this capability. This will enable greater flexibility for simulator pilots to work from home while undertaking sim training.