South Africa’s sole air traffic operator Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) on Tuesday unveiled its new high-technology three-dimensional (3D) air traffic control simulator at its training college in Kempton Park.
ATNS said it had identified an urgent need for high-technology aviation equipment to allow for the effective and cost-efficient local training of new air traffic controllers.
Transport Minister Dr Sibusiso Ndebele said at the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon that the new simulator would bring the possibility of pursuing a career as an air traffic controller closer to the South African public.
“The aviation industry could not be sustainable if the skills that are needed in this sector are not developed in time. The identification of scarce skills within the aviation sector is critical, so that the relevant training is located within the framework of the demanding and technically advanced areas,” he said.
A previous 3D-simulator ATNS used broke in 2009 and could not be fixed since. This contributed to exorbitant costs of either sending candidate air traffic controllers abroad for training, or recruiting air traffic controllers from abroad.
The ATNS then entered into a partnership with Airways New Zealand, which developed the software and hardware specifications the new simulator requires. ATNS provided the hardware, which was procured and manufactured in South Africa.
ATNS CEO Patrick Dlamini explained that the aerodrome simulator is based on the actual surroundings an air traffic controller would see, making it possible to certify controllers with zero actual operational experience.
“We are able to recreate any airport terrain in the world and simulate virtually any flight conditions or operational difficulties to prepare our candidates for the real thing. This paves the way for South Africa to become a centre of air traffic controller training excellence in Africa,” he said.
ATNS acquired a number of software licences, enabling it to install the aerodrome simulators at other locations across the country, and also in the Southern African region should the need arise.
Ndebele added that with October being Transport Month, Airways New Zealand would now embark on a skills transfer programme, before ATNS would assume responsibility to develop new simulator scenarios and to keep the other ones current. Three ATNS representatives would undergo training in New Zealand for this purpose.
When asked by Engineering News Online about the costs of the aerodrome simulator, ATNS engineering and technical services executive Thabani Mthiyane said it would be difficult to express the cost in exact financial terms, but added that it already cost more than R15-million, and that maintenance would also cost a substantial yearly amount.
Ndebele said the 3D aerodrome simulator project would make a significant contribution to government’s declaration of this year being the ‘year of job creation and service delivery in the transport sector’.
Africa’s air transport industry is estimated to contribute more than $12.3-billion to the continent’s gross domestic product.