Socially distanced simulation team at NATS CTC

Left to right: Sarah McLarty (Development Simulation Lead), Mark Davenport (Gatwick Approach Controller), Steve Forster (Heathrow Approach Controller), Andrew Garrett (Heathrow Approach Controller and ATC Lead), Shona Chalmers (Heathrow Approach Controller), Kevin Harris (NATS IA Product Manager)

When the COVID-19 pandemic news erupted, and the seriousness of the situation was realised, the initial schedule for the implementation of Intelligent Approach (IA) at Schiphol Airport instantly appeared a lot more challenging.

Think were meant to lead a series of four development simulations at NATS to configure the IA tool for Schiphol operations.  The customer, LVNL, the Dutch Air Navigation Service Provider, has a go-live scheduled in 2021 so we were working on a challenging schedule.

NATS, Think, Leidos and LVNL through a combination of intense planning, remote working and refined COVID compliant practises in the simulator, ensured COVID-19 did not impact the simulation schedule.

July was a particularly exciting month for Think as the now all-too-familiar Microsoft Teams routine was broken as NATS CTC re-opened so the development simulations could take place.  New health and safety measures were enforced including social distancing to ensure the safety of staff.  With limited personnel permitted on site, Think led NATS’ first socially distanced simulation.

Controllers were sat two workstations apart, and the measured approach positions rotated around the controller, rather than the controller physically moving position.  In an example of never letting a crisis go to waste, the strict visitor limitations necessitated NATS installing a live streaming capability allowing LVNL and others to observe simulation runs from the comfort of their own homes and join in at the debriefs.  This was extremely beneficial as it ensured they were kept engaged and could ask/answer questions throughout. Now every run can be observed, I get to see all the questions, and no-one taps one of the controllers on the shoulder to ask them a question!

Behind the scenes Think have also been leading adaptation and concept development workshops via Microsoft Teams.  It has been rewarding to get the feedback from these activities, update and validate new adaptation in the IA tool and see this run over the course of the fast-paced development simulation schedule.  

Senior Project Manager at NATS, Dushyanth Aiyappa, had the following to say on our involvement on the project:

“The team at Think have amassed years of TBS experience and were the natural choice to lead the simulations for IA – Schiphol. The team have led the delivery of two tranches of simulations successfully and work is ongoing to deliver two more. Think have not only demonstrated their ability in shrewd planning of the simulations but have also met challenging deadlines to deliver adaptations and safety related analysis on time and to a high quality that they are known for. The success of the team is down to their adaptability in the face of adversity and the expertise they bring to solving complex problems. It has been a pleasure to work with Think, a sentiment echoed by our customer, LVNL. I look forward to our ongoing partnership to deliver IA to Schiphol and beyond”.  

Think have been validating and developing final approach concepts such as Time Based Separation together with NATS UK and RECAT-EU for global clients for a number of years,  from early feasibility and R&D studies to large implementation projects.  If you would like more information, please contact us to understand how we can support you.