Back to the Future: Early Simulators

2 Min Read


by Philippe Domogala

IFATCA Industry Partners Coordinator

Figure 1 – Photo Credit: Werner Fishbach

This is the Aerodrome control simulator from the German BFS in the 1960s that was located in Frankfurt.

This was the way training of aerodrome controllers was done in such simulators from the beginning of ATC training starting in the 1920s until the 1980s in almost all States. In some cases, it was very basic, just a drawing of a runway and taxiways on a table and trainees moving small model airplanes around. This one here is quite sophisticated, the model of the airport took many hours to make and replicated exactly the surroundings, trees, hangars, etc. The trainee controller is here behind a glass with an Aldis lamp, and the instructor is in a separate room directing and monitoring the exercise.

What is interesting are the pilots, dressed up as real ones with shirts and ties, standing up and moving  model airplanes around according instructions from the trainee controller.

Figure 2 – Photo Credit: Werner Fishbach

Here we have one with a Boeing 707 model on one hand and talking to the controller on the R/T with a microphone with his other hand. This simulator had lightings systems for night time operations training.

Of course, today we use powerful computers to generate traffic in simulators that far more replicate the reality, especially if one considers that for some, the tower ATC work will be in remote control towers and then the simulator will be exactly as the real conditions.