Every autumn a team of some 120 air traffic controllers, ground staff and aircraft handlers practice at NLR in order to prepare for wintry conditions.

Snow, ice and low-hanging clouds all can occur during the winter months. In order to be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions, each autumn a team of around 120 air traffic controller, ground personnel and aircraft handlers descend on NLR to practice under simulated fresh snow and hail storm conditions.

A gate planner, an apron controller, a ground controller, a start-up controller, a de-icing coordinator and an air traffic control tower supervisor man NARSIM, the NLR’s virtual air traffic tower. Six large projectors display images of airports during severe snowstorm conditions on a huge, round screen positioned at a viewing angle of 270 degrees. Those who create the simulation can determine for example if it is night time, or if, despite a weather forecast predicting calm weather, it starts snowing very hard. After the digital snowstorm ends, as ‘dessert’ a deep fog descends. Very quickly the simulated problems begin to pile up. The wind direction has changed, and consequently the use of runways must be altered. A pushback aircraft is refused service and a box suddenly appears on the taxing lane. A short while later, there is suddenly a shortage of available de-icing fluid….

The first training at NLR was held following the extreme wintry weather experienced in March 2005. At that time, Schiphol was severely impacted, with aircraft unable to reach the gates. De-icing the aircraft took too much time, and consequently more aircraft were arriving than were departing. Many flights were delayed or cancelled, causing mounting problems for passengers and the local area. To prevent such scenarios occurring in future, personnel from the Air Traffic Control Netherlands, Schiphol airport and KLM are trained to deal with extreme winter conditions, because while the winter conditions at an airport in Chicago for example can usually be predicted, that is never the case at Schiphol airport.

http://www.bezoekbas.nl (Dutch only)