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Test yourself as air traffic controller with this free online Air Traffic Control Simulator.

ATC game/simulator - test yourself as air traffic controller

Sky-High can be customized for training and analysis.

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  • GIS/CAD conversions with FME
  • XML conversions with XSLT
  • Conversions to Google Earth (kml)
  • Aeronautical cartography
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About Sky-High

What is the purpose of Sky-High?

Sky-High is first of all a challenging game. While playing it, you will get a realistic idea of the work of an air traffic controller. Sky-High can also be customized for training and analysis.

What is the task of an Air Traffic Controller?

As an air traffic controller you guide the airplanes through the air. Your main responsibility is to avoid collisions, but you should also care about efficiency and environmental impact (noise). Air traffic control is primarily established to manage the traffic flow of commercial airplanes. Commercial airplanes are usually following pre-programmed routes defined by waypoints. The pre-programmed routes are meant to reduce the chaos in the air, but they are no guarantuee that airplanes won't collide, because it is impossible to predict the exact departure time, speed and altitude of airplanes. There are too many variable factors like weather conditions, differences in aircraft load and flight-characteristics, technical problems, flight restrictions and air traffic control instructions in other flight regions. These variations make it impossible to prevent conflicts just by means of a good route design and good scheduling. You might wonder why air traffic controllers are needed. Why can't the pilots solve the potential conflicts themselves? In busy airspaces it is hard for pilots to detect potential conflicts while they also have to control their aircraft. Moreover, it can be dangerous if each pilot would decide individually or would start to discuss with other pilots how to solve potential conflicts. Therefore it is often considered safer to have the conflict detection and resolving controlled by one person dedicated to this specific task: an air traffic controller.

How do you work as Air Traffic Controller?

As an air traffic controller you monitor the movements of the planes on a radar screen. As soon as you foresee potential conflicts you have to instruct the pilots how to avoid them. You may command the pilots:
  • At which speed the aircraft should fly (i.e. the 'ground speed' or horizontal speed).
  • To which altitude ('flight level') the aircraft should climb or descent.
  • To which waypoint or direction the aircraft should fly.
In case you ask a pilot to deviate from his pre-programmed route, you have to make sure to eventually guide him back to a waypoint on his original route.

How to read the radar screen?

The radar screen shows you the callsign, position, heading (direction), altitude and speed of each aircraft. The Sky-High radar provides a unique 3D presentation of the aircraft's position. This makes it easier to detect which aircraft are flying at the same altitude.

ATC game/simulator - 3D presentation of aircraft on radar with labels indicating callsign, altitude and groundspeed.

In the example above you see three aircraft, having callsign A3, A4 and A5. The lightblue square dots mark the current positions of the aircraft. The vertical gray bars underneath the square dots indicate the altitude, i.e. the distance between aircraft and mean sea level. Thanks to the gray bars a split second is enough to see that A3 flies highest, A4 lowest and A5 slightly higher than A4. Aircraft A3 is moving eastward (from left to right) which you can see by its tail, consisting of vertical thin bars which depict the previous positions and altitudes of the aircraft. The tail of A3 also reveals that the aircraft recently made a turn to the right at waypoint 'POI'. The tails of A4 and A5 tell us that these aircraft are flying westward.
Each aircraft has a label providing additional information. On this radar screen the first line of the label contains the callsign of the aircraft. It is a unique ID that the air traffic controller calls when he gives an intstruction to a pilot. The second line contains two numbers indicating the current altitude and the current speed. Aircraft A3 is flying at altitude 8800 ft (note that the last two digits are not indicated) and with speed 274 kts (knots, i.e. nautical miles per hour).

How do you give commands?

In the real world air traffic controllers direct the pilots by radio communication. In this game you first select the aircraft (click on the position marker or its label), then you use the green control tool to select the desired altitude, speed, or direction. You can also select a waypoint (click on the symbol or its label), which will then be the target of the aircraft. Always check if the right aircraft is selected before you give commands. The selected aircraft has a green label. The figure below shows the control tool. Aircraft A3 is selected to be controlled.

ATC game/simulator - Control tool to control aircraft on the radar.

To make the game even more realistic you can play the game with two players. One player acts as the air traffic controller looking at the radar screen and giving spoken commands. The other acts as the pilot(s) controlling the airplanes with the mouse, according to the instructions. If there is a second player, he can use the panel on the right to direct the planes. A single player, doesn't really need the panel on the right, allthough it provides some extra information.

How is your performance being measured?

Your score will be based on the number of arrivals and departures that you handle per hour. This is one of the most important factors in the profitability of an airport. But you should realise that one crash is fatal. Not only for the casualties, but also for the economical viability of the airport: If airlines or customers conclude that the air traffic control of an airport is not safe they might avoid the airport. Even rumours of a 'near miss' could harm the airport. A near miss is a clear sign that the air traffic control was not in control. Therefore in this game a near miss means: game over! This way you will learn fast how to avoid near misses, or worse: collisions.
You can challenge yourself by scheduling more arrivals/departures per hour, but also by playing the game at a higher time speed. A higher time speed allows for a higher score. Note that if you change the time speed during the game, your score will be based on the lowest time speed.

How is risk being measured?

The radar software is continuously calculating the risk of collisions for each individual aircraft. The risk level of an individual aircraft is based on the lateral and vertical separation with neighbouring aircraft, and on how fast the distance is increasing or decreasing. Aircraft may have the same horizontal position as long as their altitudes are different. For safety keep at least an altitude difference of 10, which represents 1000 feet (about 300 m).
When aircraft are in danger of a collision they first turn yellow and as the risk increases, orange, light red and eventually red. Try to keep all aircraft blue. Yellow is acceptable, but you may need to act fast to prevent a higher risk. The image below shows two aircraft with a potential conflict.

ATC game/simulator - 3D presentation of aircraft on radar. The yellow position markers indicate a potential conflict

If the risk level of one aircraft (usually two aircraft) comes above acceptable limits it's game over. It may also occur that the total risk, i.e. the sum of the risk levels of all aircraft on the radar, is getting too high. This happens when there are several pairs of aircraft on the radar facing a considerable risk. Allthough the individual risk levels may not exceed acceptable limits, the total risk is considered not acceptable, since you cannot control all potential conflicts at the same time.
Play Sky-High

Recommended internet browser

Google Chrome has the best performance. It plays smoother than Firefox and is about ten times faster than Internet Explorer! Other browsers haven't been tested.

Select a scenario:

Sky-High Approach1

Your challenge is to handle as many arrivals and departures per hour as you safely can. There is an airport with two runways at the center of the radar. Approaching aircraft follow the blue waypoints and land on the left runway, departing aircraft leave from the right runway and follow the purple waypoints.

Sky-High Approach2

Same scenario as Sky-High Approach1, but with two more approach and two more departure routes. With more routes there is a smaller chance of conflicts between passing aircraft, but more chance of conflicts between crossing aircraft.


Don't hesitate to inform how Sky-High can be customized for your organization. Sky-High implementations are directly accessible for anybody with a modern internet browser, without the need for installing additional software or plug-ins. This makes it easy to share your scenarios on internet or intranet. Think of the following possibilities:

Test or train (aspirant) air traffic controllers.

Sky-High can provide valuable feedback and statistics on one's performance. This makes it easy to measure and compare the level and progress of trainees.

Test SIDs, STARs, IAPs and ATS route networks on safety, efficiency and environmental impact (noise).

Procedure and route designs can be tested by a group of players. This might reveal potential weaknesses in the design. Comparing the statistics of different scenarios will help to identify the best solutions.

Test new interfaces for ATC radars.

Sky-high offers a great way to test different radar interfaces. If a group of players tests a specific scenario with two different interfaces the performance statistics might prove that one interface is safer than the other. For example a 3D presentation of aircraft positions can be compared with the traditional 2D presentation.

Share your ATC animations online and attract more visitors.

Adding your own Sky-High scenario with links to your organization's website offers a great way to attract the visitors that you want: (potential) air traffic controllers or other ATC-personnel, pilots, travellers, customers...

For customization requests send an email to:


For requests or comments send an email to: is based in the Netherlands, in the city of Amsterdam.

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