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ATC Issues A place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.

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Old 23rd May 2017, 19:10   #101 (permalink)
 
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I'm sure they don't, but neither does the place I worked at........Said 'Portakabin' was wrecked in a gale, but hasn't been replaced.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 20:13   #102 (permalink)
 
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I suspect that for all but the largest operations that there is little point in providing such a facility due to the reliability of the current facility and the prohibitive cost of setting up a spare one which would be used so infrequently.
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Old 24th May 2017, 03:44   #103 (permalink)
 
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My point about the visuals is that a few cameras displayed on a couple of flat screens does not give the 360 degree instant zoom in / zoom out and geospatial surround picture that the human eye/brain in tandem with instantaneous head movement does. There is also no depth perception available.

The human being in the actual Tower can simultaneously track all the local traffic, the approach and departure traffic and what is happening down on the ramp whilst taking in the weather conditions and any number of similar situational awareness cues.

Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time it is easy to get disorientated and miss the big picture.

As for video audio and comms links, well I was in that field for 16 years..........Good luck.

And this is all for what? To make controllers lives easier? To improve safety? To increase traffic flow?

NO. To make more profit, that's all.
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Old 24th May 2017, 04:37   #104 (permalink)

 
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ATC centres have managed with remote comms over many, many miles for years.

Indeed as have many airports, LHR tower uses two off-site Tx/Rxs.

Any ATC unit requires two completely separate and independent RT comms systems to function.

Last edited by Gonzo; 24th May 2017 at 13:05.
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Old 24th May 2017, 07:42   #105 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by Uplinker View Post
My point about the visuals is that a few cameras displayed on a couple of flat screens does not give the 360 degree instant zoom in / zoom out and geospatial surround picture that the human eye/brain in tandem with instantaneous head movement does. There is also no depth perception available.

The human being in the actual Tower can simultaneously track all the local traffic, the approach and departure traffic and what is happening down on the ramp whilst taking in the weather conditions and any number of similar situational awareness cues.

Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time it is easy to get disorientated and miss the big picture.

As for video audio and comms links, well I was in that field for 16 years..........Good luck.

And this is all for what? To make controllers lives easier? To improve safety? To increase traffic flow?

NO. To make more profit, that's all.
You've raised some concerns that you, and others, will hold about this technology.

Depth perception is regularly raised as a concern but depth perception is only effective over a relatively short distance (in the order of a few hundred metres). I'd suggest that, in a lot of cases, the control tower is further from the runway than this effective distance and, that even in cases where it's not, that trying to apply any form of separation based on depth perception from the tower is ludicrous.

Your views on multitasking are at odds with what has been learned on the subject over the years. Indeed the whole field of "human factors" has progressed massively. Some people will mock the field without ever reading or learning more about it but that is ignorance, whether conscious or unconscious.

Do you have any experience of operating a PTZ tailored for Air Traffic Control use? It's difficult to be objective about it if you haven't.
(Also, from experience, controllers don't use binoculars all of the time - they are used infrequently and only when something is required to be seen in more detail - so why on earth would controllers be "Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time"?)

Everything I've read, seen and heard from controllers who operate and who have tested digital tower systems has led me to believe, providing redundancy and resiliency measures are effective, that this is a positive safety step for airport ATC provision...and I'm not just talking about glossy press releases.
The consistent feedback I've had from those controllers are the improvement in their view over the airport and the improvement in their situational awareness. (Incidentally traditional tower mullions obscure the view of an airfield to some extent, depending on their siting, width, distance from the controller, etc...you may laugh at that, yet the blind spots these can create have been factors in ATC incidents and will continue to present a risk. That is just one of the ways, tiny it may seem, that digital towers can improve the overall view to the controller.)

Digital towers are not a cheap option. What they do open up is potential for "efficiencies down the line" (Mike Stoller, NATS Airports Director), i.e. pooling of multi-disciplined controllers with potential for more flexible staffing over a number of airports.
The unions are, rightly in my opinion, vehemently opposed to a controller simultaneously controlling more than one airport at a time - that scenario would open up a huge amount of issues. I'd also suggest that during a shift it may be inadviseable for a controller to plug in at Aiport A then switch (with or without a break) to plug in at Airport B. These are issues that are yet to be faced and will be subject to intense scrutiny.
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Old 25th May 2017, 15:52   #106 (permalink)
 
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I am not an ATCO, I am a pilot*.

Good luck with it: I just worry that this is being marketed as a great leap forward when the underlying reasons are surely to reduce manpower, i.e. your jobs.

And it cannot possibly be the same as a controller physically being there in the Tower.

If the remote digital tower was laid out like an actual tower, with giant HD screens surrounding the controller where the windows would be, then it might work, but the field of view for each 'window' would need to be from above the horizon to what? 45 degrees down? The human eye brain is an awesome combination: using processing and memory to build up a 3D 360 degree picture that appears simulultaneously zoomed in and wide angle**. A camera lens has to have a particular focal length at any one time, which limits this.

I would also have concerns about the low-light performance of the cameras and also how they dealt with highlights, such as the sun shining directly down the lens - again, the human eye/brain combination can cope with a huge contrast ratio that cameras cannot. As for zooming and panning, it was claimed that any 4 pixel object such as a helicopeter or drone could be tracked, how do you do that without zooming and panning?

*I have made it a point to visit the control towers of the airfields where I have been based (and some where I wasn't, e.g. The old EGLL Tower), and it is always a fascinating experience. I did fly in and out of London City between about 2002-2005, but there was never time on a turnaround to visit the tower there.

** If you have ever tried to take a picture of a sunset or the moon, you will know how different the sun/moon appears in the photo against how it seemed at the time to your own eyes.
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Old 25th May 2017, 17:37   #107 (permalink)
 
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Good points Uplinker, and interesting to hear the views of an 'end-user', as modern business-terminology describes your profession.

Historically, 'monocularly' always de-barred an applicant from holding a Class 1 aviation medical.

I believe PPLs could/can operate with this condition, as their medicals are 'Class 3'?

Now, ATCOs have Class 3 medicals, so 'Monocularity may be acceptable for an ATCO Licence application?

The r-TWR system is essentially 'monocular.

And as a keen photographer myself, your bottom line is spot-on.

Last edited by ZOOKER; 25th May 2017 at 17:53.
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Old 25th May 2017, 18:12   #108 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by ZOOKER View Post
Historically, 'monocularly' always de-barred an applicant from holding a Class 1 aviation medical.

I believe PPLs could/can operate with this condition, as their medicals are 'Class 3'?

Now, ATCOs have Class 3 medicals, so 'Monocularity may be acceptable for an ATCO Licence application?
Funnily enough I wondered about that too. Don't know enough about the condition to know if it would be a problem for operating touchscreens etc.
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Old 25th May 2017, 18:30   #109 (permalink)
 
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Also, the standards of colour-vision required for the ATCO medical are possibly a relevant factor?

How accurate are the visual sensors/displays in terms of colour-fidelity?
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Old 25th May 2017, 18:36   #110 (permalink)
 
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I As for zooming and panning, it was claimed that any 4 pixel object such as a helicopeter or drone could be tracked, how do you do that without zooming and panning...?
Thanks for your added detail.

A demo video of digital/remote tower capability - albeit some time ago - indicated automatic FOD detection warnings and the ability to automatically track anomalies without operator input.

I don't know the design spec for this project but I have seen various ways in which sun glare etc can be resolved...some are automatic adjustments others are manual (very similar in fact to lowering a blind!).

If advances in mobile phone cameras performance in low light are anything to go by then I doubt there'll be an issue with the sorts of high-end cameras selected for projects of this scope.
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Old 25th May 2017, 19:47   #111 (permalink)
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As a long time ATCO (retired 10 years), a current FISO and A/G Operator all over the place, I used/use binoculars a lot when operating - comes of being nosey but is the gear down, what is that aeroplane over there, is that something on the runway, etc. Presumably bins will just enlarge the pixels?
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Old 25th May 2017, 20:42   #112 (permalink)
 
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Uplinker - wise words indeed.
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Old 25th May 2017, 22:19   #113 (permalink)
 
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High-end cameras and displays will obviously incur high-end costs.

Back in the 1960/70s, I worked at a non-state airfield which has a 3 storey ATC facility.

When the airfield opened, the 'low-level' VCR wasn't a problem, but as the terminals expanded, the view out of the windows became more and more restricted.

The last time I visited the VCR, prior to the introduction of a new, taller structure, the VCR looked like a TV studio control-gallery, and the ATCOs were not happy bunnies.

In the early days, one of the cameras was aimed into the rising sun, to look at the 28 holding-point, and it did an 'Apollo 12'. The tels guys who installed the system were not happy bunnies.
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Old 26th May 2017, 06:49   #114 (permalink)
 
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Serves them right Z - they should have set it up like the TfL cameras that shut off when pointed at the MI6 building - I'm sure someone could write a prog to follow the sun :-)

I'll bet most ATCO's could tell a story about new kit that did something the boffins hadn't thought of. Just look how many software revisions there have been to Windows 10 already.

I can see remote stuff working at places like City, simply because there's only one runway & standard in/out tracks. However, If I look back to the days of the Flying College @ EGPK, the thought of it in use at those traffic levels worries me somewhat !

Last edited by Eric T Cartman; 26th May 2017 at 09:31.
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Old 27th May 2017, 15:08   #115 (permalink)
 
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Just thinking about the remote/digital tower concept in the light of today's problems that are affecting "The World's Favourite Airline".

According to some observers, today's problems could be the result of cost-cutting' and the outsourcing of 'in-house' IT systems.

Given the present trend at NATS for outsourcing, globalisation, alliances and cost-cutting, could such a scenario as has befallen BAW affect r-TWR ops?

At least when 9020 went pop, as it did, we could keep the service going, a bit.

Yesterday I watched the video from the 'EGLC Virtual VCR' at Swan Wick and I was stuck by the difference in image colour/contrast across the 'windows'.

The day before, the r-TWR system was discussed at some length, with 3 other retired NATS staff, with about 130 operational years between us.......And we still couldn't get our heads around it!

We agreed collectively that one day, about 20 years in the future, some management whizz-kid might think.....'Hang on, what if we put the ATCOs in a 'purpose-designed structure', which is actually AT the airfield?
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Old 27th May 2017, 15:27   #116 (permalink)
 
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Shame it never happened before I hung up my headset - might have had the opportunity to match our GM, and work from home!
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Old 27th May 2017, 15:34   #117 (permalink)
 
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Nice work if you can get it TCAS.

the last AME I used did just that. His 'surgery' was in his front room. He said it's brilliant this set up, about the best job I've ever had......And, all my patients are usually in the best of health to boot!
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Old 27th May 2017, 17:09   #118 (permalink)
 
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Zooker - you forgot to mention the cheque for 250 quid for a half-hour's work!


Your point about a whiz kid in 20 years' time - I was just about to say exactly the same - in each case, essentially change for the sake of change, oh, and brownie points for personal advancement.


2 s


2 s
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Old 27th May 2017, 17:18   #119 (permalink)
 
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He's a super chap 2s.

One year, I needed an audiogram, and he had to ask the man next-door to stop mowing the lawn while did it.

You can't beat having a cat wandering about while you're reading the eye chart.
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Old 29th May 2017, 07:12   #120 (permalink)
 
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Failure is not an option -- it comes bundled with Windows. Just ask BA.
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