When the Latvian Civil Aviation Agency decided to upgrade its air traffic control simulation room in the ATC-training centre at the aiport of Riga, by updating the software and integrating expanded training possibilities as well as by upgrading the projectors, their Stockholm-based supplier SiATM specialized in air traffic management products, decided to trust the upgrade to NANCO, i.e. including assessing, measuring, drawing, calculating, planning, purchasing, coordinating, integrating, installing, calibrating and testing.
A typical ATC-setup has to mirror the actual airport environment and match the real workplace of air traffic controllers, i.e. where controllers operate from a control table monitoring and overlooking the airport, its runways, the traffic, etc. The former setup at the training facility was similar and the upgrade would continue in the same fashion.
The existing installation consisted of 5 roof-mounted projectors projecting onto 5 flat canvases, each mimicking a tower window:
In addition to the software and hardware upgrade, the Civil Aviation Authority chose to have a curved screen installed.
By the end of 2020, the worldwide corona pandemic was still raging and restrictions were limiting what the world previously knew as normal business travelling.
All the while this project would at least require two trips: one for on site measurement, detailing and scaling the entire simulation room and former construction in order to plan the upgrade, and one for the actual installation. The latter additionally complicated by Finnish quarantine restrictions preventing NANCO’s partner Andy Simmons of Finnish Cave Oy to participate on site.
Comparing the new projectors being larger and weighing 35kg apiece with the relatively smaller and lighter former projectors only weighing 7kg, the existing hanging construction would not suffice.
Every challenge has its solution…
We had to keep ourselves and others safe by following the strict European corona restrictions: filling out an electronical questionnaire prior to travel, self-isolating upon arrival, weekly testing for corona, following strict hygiene procedures, wearing protective mask aboard flight, at the hotel and at work, restricting movements to and fro the hotel and the workplace, showing negative corona test certificate upon request and daily checking the body temperature before entering the training facility adjacent to the control tower of Riga airport.
Finnish Andy Simmons could luckily be replaced by SiATM’s own computer graphics expert, who appeared to be a mechanical engineer as well, for on site installation and calibration.
The curved screen
The first step was to design and, in cooperation with Finnish Cave Oy, calculate the curved screen and the placement of the projectors:
Inspired by a local industry building fiberglass parts for crew cars, mobile homes, trucks, trailers, etc. NANCO applied the same technique to build the curved screen using a 1mm thin and 14.3m * 2.06m rollable fiberglass canvas and aluminum rails . A solution that facilitated both transport and installation compared with fixed screens and often heavy supporting constructions.
Once designed and calculated, the rails were constructed by Alucon in Gothenburg, Sweden.
On site, the canvas was threaded into each rail’s 5mm groove, whereupon the aluminum rails were attached to the existing construction. Subsequently a local firm painted the screen with a primer and two layers of the semi-gloss textured gray paint:
On site, the suspension was additionally reinforced by attaching it into the concrete ceiling past existing ventilation, water pipes, electrical wiring, etc.
After installing remained the last step: to calibrate the software to obtain a seamless transition between the different projections resulting in a homogenous image:
By the end of December, NANCO delivered a completely installed ATC-simulator including a curved screen and new projectors at the ATC-facility, where all Latvian tower controllers are trained in radar, en-route and tower scenarios in the simulated but realistic environment of Riga Airport.
The 14.3m * 2.06 m curved fiberglass screen with a 228° Field of View:
The five ceiling-mounted Barco F80-Q7 phosphor projectors each with a 0.85 – 1.06:1 lens producing a 1m wide and sharp image from a 1m distance. The projectors were, as the previous ones, reversed: instead of directing the projectors outwards, they were directed inwards each projecting obliquely downwards slightly under each other: