An ETG, or Enhanced Target Generator, is a simulator for training and teaching procedures in a Radar Room.
Radar Rooms are typically referred to by either the FAA term, “Terminal Radar Approach Controller (TRACON)” or the military term, “Radar Approach Control (RAPCON).” A RAPCON and TRACON are the same thing. ETG is an invaluable instructional tool that helps TRACON/RAPCON Controllers learn techniques and procedures in an environment that looks, feels, and behaves like an actual Radar Room.
One of the more difficult things to teach someone learning air traffic control is three-dimensional vision. When you’re learning air traffic control in a radar environment, you need to be able to look at a radar screen and see more than just a flat screen. You need to be able to see everything laid out in three dimensions, just like what you would see in real life. Oftentimes several controllers own altitudes in the same vicinity and the controller must know which controller owns what airspace and where.
A well-designed ETG makes training as realistic as possible so that trainees can develop their skills and prepare to communicate with real airplanes. Here are some things to think about as you plan your ETG room.
4 Factors to Consider in ETG Room Design
ETG rooms should ideally look just like the radar room workstations for controllers. However, the final design often depends on the amount of space available and the number of trainees.
There are several factors you should consider when planning an ETG room:
1. ETG Equipment
The more similar the ETG looks and feels to the actual Radar Room the controllers are going to be sitting in at their facility, the better. That often means using similar radios, displays, and space allocations for each position. It’s important to set everything up in a similar configuration to the setup in the actual Radar Room.
The most important parts of designing an ETG room are the equipment and the trainers. In the US, every FAA and Military Radar Facility has Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) as their Automation System. This makes uniformity in the functionality of the automation system simple, but the ancillary equipment such as altimeters, wind measuring, wind shear advisory, Runway Visual Range, Information Display Systems, and Voice Switches can vary widely between facilities and their placement is rarely uniform from one facility to another.
Russ Bassett’s Slatwall design can make it easy to replicate a Radar Room environment by making uniformity and relocation of equipment simple. To see how this works, you can schedule a virtual tour with us.
2. Training Style
Different facilities and trainers may want equipment, ATC console furniture, and walls to be situated in different ways depending on their training style. The trainer may sit right next to the trainee or sometimes relocate themselves elsewhere in the room so as to give the trainee a feeling of operating independently.
Many facilities with limited space have the person who is acting as a “pilot”, sitting in the same room or next to the trainee. In optimum situations, the trainer and trainee might be sitting in one room, while the remote pilot operator is in the next room over to create a more realistic experience. Many facilities will have makeshift walls to provide flexibility.
One of the most common issues that come up in ETG room design is lighting. The lighting should be very similar to what’s in the radar room, whether that means the lights are turned up or the room is dark. Typically, facilities have a preference as to light settings, which may vary depending on what crew is working.
In the past, Radar controllers often had to work in the dark to avoid monitor reflection problems. The old monochromium displays did not respond well to light. Today we have non-reflective monitors that don’t have those same problems, so it is often much easier to work with ambient light.
LCD monitors look extremely good in both the light and dark, which provides the necessary flexibility to accommodate the desires of the controllers. Regardless, the ETG should offer the same light settings that are available in the actual Radar Room.
Typically, larger facilities will have larger ETG labs so they can accommodate more training with multiple sectors training at the same time. A large place like Southern California TRACON, for example, might have 20 radar scopes in the ETG lab alone, while a smaller facility may have one or two.
ETG lab space is often a challenge, but when it’s not, it’s typically best to create a mirror image of actual positions the facility has in the TRACON/RAPCON. If a room is available, having the pilots located in a separate location from the ETG offers a more realistic atmosphere for training, but may present personnel challenges.
How Russ Bassett Can Help You Plan Your ETG Room
At Russ Bassett, we’ve helped plan and design a number of ETG labs. We work to make these spaces as realistic as possible according to the customer’s needs.
Our air traffic control consoles, space plans, materials, and accessories are made for demanding 24/7 environments. We provide distinctive technology and equipment integration solutions that are optimized for ATC spaces.
If you are looking for assistance with planning, designing, and furnishing your ETG room, schedule a consultation with us today.