International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO) Document 9625, “Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of Flight Simulation Training Devices,” defines SATCE as:
"The simulation of other traffic entities within an airspace or ground environment along with the associated ATC [Air Traffic Control] radio and data communications to other traffic on the ownship within this wider context."
In Plain English, SATCE (Simulated ATC Environment) is the environmental cueing system on a Flight Simulation Training Device (FSTD) that simulates external traffic on the ground or in the air (both visually and over radio) and Air Traffic Control (ATC) communications in the flight training environment.
The first formal requirement for ATC and radio skills training appeared in 2006 when the the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) introduced the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) in response to a sharp increase in demand for commercial airline pilots. The goal of the MPL was to provide raw recruits with the necessary training and skills to occupy the First Officer’s seat on a commercial jet aircraft, and identified ATC and radio skills as a necessary feature of FSTD training. As a result of this initiative, several working groups have formed to review SATCE requirements and have created a set of recommendations outlining the scope and behavior for a SATCE system that can be integrated into a flight simulator.
It’s hard to believe, but realistic ATC training and the presence of other traffic is practically non-existent in the flight simulation world. The best a pilot-in-training can hope for, even in our 21st-century world of technically advanced flight simulators, is to have the already task-overloaded instructor role-play the air traffic controllers and perhaps see (but not hear) some other traffic moving around the airport on pre-scripted tracks. This is somewhat alarming considering how almost every other aspect of FSTDs has improved since the inception of flight simulators. It is especially alarming when you consider the significant amount of communications-related incidents that occur each year.
Pilots face far too many unexpected challenges in real-world flight situations to be blindsided by something that they should be trained to handle. In any given flight plan, a flight deck crew will typically communicate with over ten different controllers in various roles while performing their other duties, something an instructor simply cannot role-play. Add to that the lack of external air traffic that would be present in the real world, and essential elements of a truly immersive and effective flight training experience are missing. With such an apparent training gap needing to be fulfilled, why have improvements to ATC training and the simulation of other traffic been neglected for so long?
In short, meeting these critical training needs has been considered too difficult. The technology hasn’t been available, and finding a cost-effective solution that could be integrated into existing simulators was practically impossible. That is, until the introduction of SERA™, ASTi’s Simulated Environment for Realistic ATC. SERA is the SATCE solution, offering the flight training world a fully-automated ATC training device that simulates the presence of external traffic, integrates into existing platforms on every level of FTD (Flight Training Device), and features a budget-friendly hourly pricing model that won’t break the bank.