• Air Traffic Controller 3 - Tokyo Big Wing

    I Am An Air Traffic Controller 3 - Tokyo Big Wing

    By Chip Barber (7 January 2009)

    OK, show of hands. How many of you are familiar with the game 'Reversi'? It is also referred to as 'Othello', at least here in the States. It is advertised in part, as are several others, as "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master". Well, here's another game to add to those of which this is descriptive.

    Now, don't get all frazzled and unglued by the term "game". You see, this is not your usual piece of software. If you've ever used the wonderful simulation ATCSimulator2, you will understand my reluctance to refer to it as a game. It is not really a game at all, but a simulation of the stress-inducing world of the Approach Air Traffic Controller. ATC3, the next in line in this series of software, picks up where ATCS2 left you: in the position of the Tower controller.

    But here's the rub. Where, at least for me anyway, it was difficult if not impossible to approach ATCS2 as a game, ATC3 is capable of doing just that. Do you know the name, Brad Davis? He is the developer of ATCS1 and 2. Well, Brad and I have an ongoing discussion regarding the nature of ATC3. Game or simulation? My thought was it is more a game; he has managed to convince me it is also a simulation cut of the same cloth as his software. The point he made that finally got me to come around to his point of view is one may simply run the software exclusively from the view of the tower controller. Now, why didn't I think of that? I'll tell you why. Because the nearly endless opportunities to watch the action in and around Tokyo Haneda airport (RJTT), to fail to take a look at all these 'magical' views would be a shame!

    What ATC3 offers to the tower controller is, I imagine, something you "real world" controllers would give their left ... shoe, to have. In a word, you are able to go anywhere, any time, to get an almost unlimited view of the activity not only in and around RJTT (and, ultimately, other airports as well), but miles away as your aircraft is happily flying its SID departure or STAR approach. From the tower, the controller's view is limited to line of sight (which isn't too shabby, by the way). But here, in the ATC3 world, a click or two will have you at, above, and all around any location in which you as the controller may have an interest.

    So, being as you're supposed to adopt the role of a tower controller, let's have a look at the tools of your trade.

    First, a look at your new office:

    From here, you will be most concerned with the radar and strip screens. Radar gives you a good overview of your control area, and the strips act as your interface with the pilots.


    The radar screen is resizable, and will give you views of not only ground, but sky as well.

    Here, the aircraft RED305 is ready for departure, and it is up to you to grant authorization for pushback, and assign a SID departure route. The routes are described on the last page of the paper manual.

    Something to keep in mind: all the voice communication is in Japanese accented English, and at first takes some concentration to understand clearly. All com exchanges are also transcribed for you, but in short order, you will become accustomed to the accents and will have no difficulty understanding the pilots. Brad will be working on voice sets from "locals", too.

    The commentary appears within its own window, but I couldn't manage to capture that.

    The other thing that jumps out at you is the designation of aircraft. Rather than JAL or Air Nippon, it is Red, Blue, Green etc. While not quite "real world", you will become so busy, so fast, that you'll not even notice it.

    Here, YEL703 is requesting a move to another spot. Clicking on the flight strip moves your attention to the direction of YEL703, as below:

    Not a bad view of YEL703, but using the Camera Control bar at the bottom of the screen, there are several enhanced views available to you.

    Here, I've clicked on "plane" on the cameral control bar, and manipulated it so that the aircraft, and the tower, are visible. I can pan all around the bird, and zoom in and out. An ability that would most likely bring a smile to the lips of any "real" tower controller!

    Here, BLU3751 is requesting a tug from maintenance to a gate. You are presented with a potential route, and may alter it by clicking on the blue spots, or even assign it a different gate with the green spots. Your call, controller! Clicking on "OK" causes a tug to appear, and it will tow BLU3751 to its new position. Of course, when it gets busy, you've got to keep in mind where other aircraft will be going, and assign them a hold command in order to avoid a situation in which a collision will occur. Unfortunately, the pilots in ATC3 move as assigned, and failing to issue a "Hold" command results in instant failure of the scenario.

    You are assisted to a significant degree by your flight strips. Above, RED305 is displaying a red icon of a tug, and below its destination Fukuoka, a line advising it is ready for push. Below, Red305 was given clearance for push, and from the 'Plane' option on the Camera Control, we watched it happen. We also heard (and read) the exchange between the pilot and tower controller.

    Now, we'll devise and assign Red305's route to the assigned runway (or, we could tell the pilot to standby, if necessary to avoid a situation that would end the scenario). Telling the pilot to standby results in the tower advising to standby due to traffic.

    Here is the route we've assigned to Red305:

    As always, the route is easily modified as necessary. The aircraft may always be given a 'Hold' command. Once we clear '305, there are endless views by which to follow his/her progress. Remember to keep an eye on their progress to ensure a safe trip. You must also remember the route you assigned, as there will be other aircraft wishing to depart, aircraft that are arriving wishing transit to a gate, and aircraft that are being moved from one place to another.

    Perhaps you are now beginning to understand why this game/simulation is not unlike Reversi. Manipulation of the aircraft is not difficult, accomplished by only a mouse click or two. But once things are rolling, your job of safe transit for all these aircraft becomes a little more tricky.

    And, you may ask, how does one "win" this game/simulation? Well, for one thing, and perhaps most important, maintain separation! Crunching noises coming from the tarmac always result in a failure of the scenario.

    Something else to avoid is stressing the pilots. This ingenious little function is always visible on the screen, and is quantified by causing delays or giving lousy directions to the pilot. Below, see the section that says 'Stress'? That reflects the cumulative stress levels of all your pilots, and the larger the percentage, the worse you are doing. It is also a fairly accurate gauge of your own stress levels, too.

    You will also note the blue umbrella. Weather is always a factor affecting your controlling strategy. Clicking the down arrow on the far right of the window will call a graphic of your current open/closed runways. Always be aware of these!

    Here, you see it is rainy, with an 18 knot wind from heading 220. Currently runway 04 is shown in red, advising it is closed to all traffic. Best not to assign a departure or arrival to 04!

    So far, so good, right? Sounds easy enough. Well, have a look at this screen shot of your "to do" list.

    Notice a new color in the strips? Green represents departures, and the yellowish ones are your arrivals. It is up to you to assign a STAR and a runway for arrival. Again, the last two pages of the manual are graphics that show you the STAR's that are used, so that you assign an appropriate runway (assuming it is available to traffic... getting nervous yet?).

    Clicking on BLU52 arrival takes you automatically to the aircraft in the main window, and also highlights it on the radar screen. You are able to pan all around the aircraft and change views using the Camera Control bar.

    This gives you an opportunity to change the heading of the arriving BLU52. With the runway selected either manually or through the program, you then hand off the pilot to the tower controllers (also played by you. Isn't this fun?) for further guidance.

    Now, with all this happening, you are being contacted by other arrivals, departures and requests for gate changes. Remember that stress level thingy?

    A word about technical stuff. Installation was a breeze, just a couple of mouse clicks. On my machine, it ran as smooth as glass with no stutters or freezes. But, I ran ATC3 on a high end machine: 3.60 MHz Quad Core processor with 3G RAM, GeForce GTX 260 Graphics card. I do not know how well this software will run on your machine.

    Also, a word about Who Does What. TechnoBrain produced and developed this wonderful software, and while the official name is "I am an Air Traffic Controller 3 - Tokyo Big Wing", it is commonly referred to as "ATC3" (small wonder, right?). And my friend, Brad Davis' (developer of the also wonderful ATCS1 and 2) role was to assist in the English conversion of the program.

    So, this is just a taste of ATC3. I think this is a more than worthy companion of ATCS 1 and 2. Is it a game, or a simulation? It will depend on your approach to the program. But regardless of what you choose to call it, it is a ton of fun to use, and in my humble opinion, is a "must have" for anyone who enjoys the ATC side of flight simulation.

    Three Green!

    Chip Barber
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here

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