Deiceman Traineth

Deicing training can be expensive. Training in safety, efficiency and environmental compliance to meet airport launch capabilities during varied winter weather conditions is a vital step in the aircraft deicing and anti-icing process. The development of the largest and most technically advanced deicing facility in the world in 1999 by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which is operated by Penauille Servisair, was not only a key element in Toronto Pearson's winter weather operational plans, but in ensuring safety through improved deicing technologies, communications and training.

COLD, HARD FACTS

The CDF, managed by Kelvin Williamson, Penauille Servisair General Manager, is a rather complex, automated aircraft guidance system with a facility housing the "control cab" and nearly 65 acres containing six deicing pads, each of which is divided into a staging bay and a deicing bay. Three aircraft lanes provide room for six wide-body aircraft as large as the Boeing 747 that can be deiced simultaneously or ten Airbus A320s and two Dash-8s. Penauille Servisair can deice as many as 500 aircraft in one day.

In the control cab, also dubbed the "Ice House" of the CDF, the coordination and control of flight operations is orchestrated by eight key positions (two zone deicing coordinators, pad control, operations manager, bay manager, operations support specialist and two aircraft coordinators known as the "Ice Men") whose computers are equipped with real-time weather radar information. In many ways, the responsibilities that come with orchestrating the aircraft deicing are as intricate and as important as an Air Traffic Control tower, whose primary task is to separate certain aircraft in order to prevent them from coming too close to each other horizontally and vertically.

In the Ice House, aircrafts with their number and type can be viewed en route to the CDF electronic flightstrip and their progress can be tracked using the Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE) screen. Each aircraft is allocated to an available bay and each bay usually has four deicing vehicles, allowing maximum throughput efficiency. Images of the deicing procedure are displayed and recorded for future playback on overhead monitors in the CDF cab providing a full range of visual perspectives during the deicing process.

According to Joe Forbes, GTAA Senior Manager of Deicing Operations, the act of deicing itself doesn't take much time at all. In fact, since its inception, 75,000 aircraft have been deiced at the facility, an average season being approximately 9,500. It's the deicing training where the time … and great care is taken.

ELEPHANTs IN CANADA, eh?

Okay, not exactly. One of the more recent additions to the CDF vehicle fleet was a pair of Vestergaard Elephant Beta 15 deicing trucks that have the ability to undertake live deicing on planes (with engines running) as large as a Boeing 747 and its extended reach enables it to deice all areas of the A380 as well. Operating one of these vehicles, or even one of the 25 smaller Vestergaard Beta fleet at Toronto Pearson, is costly and can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing.

No stranger to deicing, Kelvin Williamson, recipient of a merit award for leadership in the regional regulatory process for the Lester B. Pearson International Airport's central de-icing facility, calculated that he would save time and money by integrating the g-Force Beta Simulator into the initial and recurrent deicing training process at the CDF. "Training in the 'real thing' takes a significant amount of money," says Williamson. "The cost of fuel to keep the truck running and the wear and tear on the trucks, not to mention the fact that the deicing operators can only train on one type of aircraft … it's very inefficient."

With these factors in mind, Williamson introduced g-Force Technologies' new deicing simulator to the deicing operator training program at the CDF. "Training can be expensive and one of our goals is to make sure that by the time a deicer gets into a deicing vehicle, the use of the controls is absolutely second nature," says Kurt Kleinsorge, president, g-Force Technologies. "By using the simulator, deicers will have the chance to practice on any type of aircraft they may come across during the season."

INTERVIEW, TRAIN AND RE-TRAIN

The simulator, though introduced to the CDF for its training capabilities, has become part of the initial interview process and has taken the guesswork out of a candidate's aptitude in dexterity. "Within a couple of hours, we are able to determine who is most suited for being a deicing operator," says Williamson.

The entire training process, from classroom to cab, is three weeks long with an average of 15 deicing operators in each course. The first week is the written portion in the classroom. The next two weeks include the simulator and working with the actual deicing truck on the pad. The simulator also provides an ongoing training opportunity for those wishing to retain or improve well-developed skills. "The simulator advantage allows personnel to practice their skills any time of year and get completely comfortable with the equipment they are using. It provides a realistic, but inexpensive and safe environment for deicers to perform boom manipulations, deicing operations, one and two operator drive and driving patterns before being exposed to the real thing," says Kleinsorge.

The training systems use the actual controls, a.k.a., from deicing trucks along with a 3D computer simulation in order to provide a first-person interactive environment for deicing aircraft and accurately recreating the physics and dynamics of operating the vehicle in "the real world." "The controls are exactly the same as in the truck," says Williamson. "They feel the same, the movements are the same and there's a fair amount of dexterity that's required … by the time you get in the actual truck, you're not fumbling around with those controls."

The simulator provides three levels of training: a tutorial-based level which is used for equipment familiarization, an intermediate level with supplemental training support and an advanced level where severe weather and ground personnel may be introduced. "I've noticed when people use the simulator, one of the first things they want to do is the thing they can't do in real life … they want to simulate emergencies," says Williamson. "You never know exactly how you will respond in an emergency situation, yet practicing these scenarios in a safe environment will help the operator gain confidence in the correct procedures to follow, if and when they are needed."

He also points out that in the past if an employee was weak in a certain area of the training they would have to wait until the bays were not busy to get out in the Beta and go over maneuvers. Now an operator can be coached in a one-on-one session without impacting the entire deicing operation.

A DEICING BALLET

The simulators can be networked together in order to practice communications between vehicle drivers and deicers or to allow teams of deicers to work on the same aircraft. "This year we're going to look at having a second simulator that would be networked together—so that if you have two deicing operators, they'll both be able to see each other working in tandem on an aircraft. Not only can you have the process of timing with somebody else in the simulator and in the deicing truck you can also build in the communication between the zone deicing coordinator and the two operators as they spray that airplane," says Williamson.

Chris Schock, Penauille Servisair training supervisor at the CDF, lead trainer, sets the stage for a "worst-case scenario" to explain Penauille Servisair's vision for Toronto's CDF. "With the A380, we will need a six truck operation; one on each side of the tail, two on each wing. Now the ballet that has to take place within the vehicle patterns that need to be created are intricate." Schock explains that to train for this difficult situation, if they would have six simulators networked together, each of the six operators can see what the other is doing in real-time and communication with the control tower can be built into the program as well and operated from the lead truck. "It is in fact like a ballet," says Williamson. "It's choreographed and everyone is moving in concert. It's a beautiful thing to watch." Ultimately, Williamson's dream is to perform the entire deicing process, from the Icemen in the Ice House to the control of the Snowballs on the pads, in the classroom with a network of simulators dancing together in real-time. With his knowledge and tenacity, his dream is bound to become a reality.

Efficiency refinements continue to be made to the overall process in order to reduce throughput time, improve safety performance and reduce unit cost, but bottom line, simulator deicing training is a safe, efficient and cost-effective way to train new and even "seasoned" employees … not to mention offering managers peace of mind.

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