Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TSS Labs: Simulator Overview

There's a lot to write about the TSS labs, so I'm just going to break it into separate posts. In this one, I'm going to cover the physical side of it, i.e. what it looks like and how it works.

The academy has two different types of Tower simulators:
  • TSS: A full-size tower simulation system, there are four located in adjacent rooms at the Academy. Each system consists of 5 projection TV's that form a 180 degree view. Each room has a very spacious and complete console featuring strip bays, desk lights, runway light control panels, D-brite, a separate "binocular" computer monitor for the ground controller, and other displays and equipment. Due to its size, it really does make you a "swivel head" since you physically have to keep your head moving and scanning.

    One thing that's cool is that you can actually stand up in the TSS. Some of the rooms have a podium available so you can stand in front of the console and keep your pad handy, while still being able to see the D-Brite.
  • EDS: Physically smaller in terms of hardware and display, the EDS simulators run the same software as the TSS but are designed to be compact. All six stations are located in one room and use four LCD monitors per station. They are functional, but obviously not as immersive as the TSS. Both the EDS and the TSS run the same problems with the same aircraft, so both are valuable training tools.
Arrangement: For both types of labs, you will be plugged in with an instructor by your side, one each for Local and Ground. In the TSS, you will also have a ghost pilot in the room who will assist when the voice recognition goes awry (that's a whole 'nother post right there). In the EDS, you rely solely on the voice recognition, although some of the instructors know how to manipulate the computer system in case something goes wrong.

For the gamers out there, the graphics aren't that great. I'd say Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000. FS X blows it clean out of the water. Those of you who know me know that I design maps and models for games as a hobby. I could whip out one of those aircraft models in no time using Maya and Photoshop. They're very basic.

However, the models are more than adequate. 777's look like 777's, Cessnas look like Cessnas, etc. They do the job.

Audio: The computer's voice is very digitized and some specific words are more difficult than others to understand. One neat thing about it is that it superimposes an aircraft's engine sound behind the voice, so just by the sound of the engine you know more or less who's calling. The light singles will have that piston rumble, the corporate jets a high-pitched turbine whine, and the airliners usually have nothing.

Schedule: There are seven runs per day, with a 15 minute break in each run. Typically, you will work in the TSS for two of those runs, once on Local and the other on Ground. The rest of the runs will be on one of the EDS stations. In the course of a day, there's a strong possibility that you will be paired up with a classmate more than once. Who that is exactly changes on a day-to-day basis, so by the time you're done you've most likely worked alongside the majority of your classmates. In addition, sometimes you'll be paired up with a certain instructor for multiple sessions. That can be a blessing and a curse. More on that later.

Anyways, I'm tired right now. We just came off a week of night shifts and my body's resisting the whole "getting up at 5:15am" thing. More will be coming shortly.

Upcoming TSS posts:
  • Instructor roulette
  • Voice recognition and artificial intelligence (or complete lack thereof)

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