Shifting the ATC Training Paradigm

There is a global skills shortage facing the aviation industry. As a result ATC traning academies need to begin to redefine their training models.

The way in which people want to learn is transforming. Learners that are passing through our training centres now live in an ‘on demand’ world where smart technologies are enabling them to be connected anytime, anywhere. It’s no secret that these technologies are fundamentally changing their expectations of teaching and learning.

Today’s aviation professionals are replacing blackboards and books with iPads and apps and as a result our ATC training needs to be equally as adaptive and flexible.

Training challenges

The e-learning journey begins by going back to the learner as well as the ANSPs that are employing them. We need to pinpoint what their expectations are for their learning and training outcomes.

Not only is there is a growing global shortage of ATCs, but the cost of training is significant. Overall, the industry spends around US$480 million on ATC training every year. The message from ANSPs is clear – they want high volume, low risk training options that deliver safe and work ready graduates.

The message from learners is that we need to change how we do things. They want 24/7 flexible study options, seamless mobile learning opportunities and a personalised learning experience. They are challenging us to review how we design, develop and think about training.

People expect flexibility, mobility and they want to be engaged. To deliver the best training possible we needed to bring learning into a paradigm that is familiar to them.

An e-learning blueprint

An approach to e-learning can be based on four key principles:

  1. User engagement to enable learners to create a personalised learning environment.
  2. Mobile anywhere as learners want fast, flexible training at their pace and at their time.
  3. Consistent delivery of content and being confident that each student is receiving that same training and up to date resources.
  4. A global community where instructors and learners could collaborate to create a socially connected learning experience.


Airbooks represents the first step in the paradigm shift for ATC training. Airbooks is a platform designed to deliver knowledge that is engaging, mobile and convenient. Interactive resources that incorporate videos, animations, audio, games and knowledge checks, designed to assist learners with theory based subjects, catering to all learner types.

 Airbooks is evolving and while they were designed with ab-initio learners in mind, their potential use has a much wider reach. Airbooks is now being utilised at a number of ATC training providers for operations training, compliance and induction training to enable faster and more frequent training cycles (than face-to-face) and reducing disruption to rosters.

A need for Blended Delivery Models

The needs of our learners, the requirements of our customers as well as our own internal business goals all point towards a blended delivery model. Modern technology cannot yet completely bridge the gap between eLearning and instructor led, practical exercises. At the same time, classroom led powerpoint sessions are become a less and less viable option. The sweet spot lies with blended learning. A model that takes advantage of engaging digital theory content that can be consumed in "bite sized" portions, supplemented with face to face instruction to reinforce the knowledge and provide additional context. 

An Opportunity for Collaboration

The emergence of digital tools provides our industry with a unique opportunity. ATC training content is generally quite prescribed and follows regulations that are consistent around the world. Once we take advantage of the efficiencies that can be achieved through blended training delivery, perhaps we can look to how we can benefit as an industry through shared services. Digital tools could enable us to develop, share, buy and sell courses as a part of a wider community of aviation educators, and reduce the industry wide inefficiencies when 80 ANSPs each develop the same course.

About the Author

Sharon Cooke - General Manager Training, Airways International Limited


Sharon is responsible for Airways’ global training business, with campuses in Christchurch and Palmerston North in New Zealand, Dubai, Beijing and San Juan. Sharon’s key focus is to ensure successful training outcomes for customers; to implement the Airways  e-learning strategy; and develop the capabilities and expertise of the Training team in order to grow the business through innovative products and services.