Our History

Micro Nav was founded in 1988 by Fred Johnson and Mike Male, both Air Traffic Controllers involved in training and simulation.

Micro Nav is now an award-winning leading specialist developer and supplier of Air Traffic Control and Air Battle Management simulators and training systems, with installations across 38 countries.


Micro Nav Limited is founded

Fred Johnson and Mike Male, both Air Traffic Controllers, launched Micro Nav’s first generation Air Traffic Control simulator - FIRST (Flexible Independent Radar Skills Trainer). Mike and Fred pioneered the use of PCs for air traffic control simulation, making it an affordable solution for the first time.

A number of high-profile sales

A number of high-profile sales of the FIRST (Flexible Independent Radar Skills Trainer) ATC radar simulator, to national authorities and commercial training centres, supported Micro Nav's credibility as an ATC simulator provider. These included a first sale to AENA (now ENAIRE), the Spanish ANSP; International Aeradio Limited (now SERCO), Bailbrook College, the UK; Eurocontrol in Maastricht, the Netherlands; and the Dutch ANSP LVB (now LVNL), the Netherlands.

NATS College of ATC placed biggest order of FIRST

UK ATC authority NATS placed the biggest order of FIRST for the College of ATC at Hurn, Bournemouth, UK. Later, the college would go on to employ BEST at Swanwick Control Centre, London Heathrow Airport, and several regional airports.

The FIRST tower simulator was developed

A contract from swisscontrol (now skyguide) led to Micro Nav's move into tower simulation. The next customer was the Dutch ANSP (now LVNL) for a full 360° projected FIRST tower simulator in 1994.

First national government order

The German national ATC authority Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung (BFS), now Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), ordered FIRST systems for 14 units across Germany, including their headquarters in Langen. In 2001, the DFS ordered 13 workstations of the next generation ATC simulator, BEST (Beginning to End for Simulation and Training).

Micro Nav sold FIRST to Hughes

Working in partnership, Micro Nav and Hughes achieved a leading international product in FIRST. Following the sale of the FIRST product line to Hughes in 1995, the partnership ended in 1998.

The next generation ATC simulator was developed

In June 1998, Fred and Mike started to develop the next generation Air Traffic Control simulator, BEST (Beginning to End for Simulation and Training).

BEST launch customers

NATS' College of ATC at Hurn, Bournemouth, UK, became the launch customer for BEST. This was followed by NATS procuring BEST to support the conversion training programme for the UK’s New En-Route Centre (NERC) at Swanwick in Hampshire, UK.

Tom Howard-Jones joined Micro Nav

Instrumental in bringing Hughes and Micro Nav together to establish FIRST as an industry-leading product, Tom joined Fred and Mike in 1998 to launch BEST.

The start of Micro Nav’s long term relationship with Thales ATM

BEST was selected as the ATSIM stimulator for the Thales ATMAS programme in Switzerland. Micro Nav started developing interfaces for driving the real radar and flight data sub-systems of the operational ATC equipment, using industry-standard protocols. The ATSIM project became COOPANS, which continues to be supported by BEST for Naviair; Austro Control; Irish Aviation Authority; HungaroControl; Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services; and Croatia Control.

The start of the BEST 2D and 3D tower simulator

Following the ATSIM project, swisscontrol (now skyguide) wanted to extend their training to cover tower control, leading Micro Nav to develop a tower control simulator with a ‘God’s eye view’ of the airport and its surround. skyguide referred to these simulators as BASIM, which were capable of both tower and radar training, pioneering 2D displays for tower training. Later, they wanted to add a 3D, out-of-the-window view, contracting Micro Nav to create the interface to drive a third-party image generator. Although Micro Nav had delivered 3D systems with FIRST in partnership with Hughes, this project was the beginning of Micro Nav becoming a world leader in 3D ATC tower simulation in its own right.

First Fighter Controller simulation contract

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected the BEST Fighter Control Training simulator, which was delivered to the Royal Navy School of Fighter Control at Yeovilton, UK. Advanced features included voice recognition and output, and automated semi-autonomous forces, with behaviours such as avoid, engage and aggressive.

From stimulation to emulation

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) chose the BEST radar and 3D tower simulator to include a replication (emulation) of their operational CAIRDE system. This provided a platform for transatlantic operations, and an evaluation of new controller tools for advanced safety and airspace restructuring programmes.

The world’s first continuous-image 360° ATC tower simulator

The BEST 360° ATC tower simulator was selected to provide procedure evaluation and conversion training for existing controllers working through the major enhancements at London Heathrow Airport. These included moving to the new tower; introducing electronic flight progress strips; new approach radar services; follow-the-greens, and the start of A380 aircraft operations.

Launch of Fast Airport Builder

Micro Nav launched Fast Airport Builder (FAB), now BEST 3D Create, a unique software tool pioneered for advanced user independence from third-party suppliers. The application quickly creates and modifies airfields and associated features, including runways, taxiways, 3D models of buildings, stopbars and other items that add realism to the 3D scene.

The start of BEST at Entry Point North (EPN)

A joint partnership between ANSPs, Naviair (Denmark), LFV (Sweden), Avinor (Norway) and more recently, IAA (Ireland), Entry Point North was founded in 2005 and started installing BEST simulators at their increasing number of training sites. Since then, EPN installed more BEST systems, including Sweden (3 sites), Ireland (2 sites), Hungary, Denmark, Spain, and Belgium, to become Micro Nav’s largest customer by 2018.

Rear-projected 360° 3D tower simulator for the Royal Netherlands Air Force

The Royal Netherlands Air Force and Micro Nav signed a contract at the Defence Materiel Organisation headquarters in The Hague. BEST was procured to cover training requirements for controllers operating at all the main Dutch military airfields. The air force constructed a purpose-built building to house the 360° tower and 8-sector radar simulator. Micro Nav’s invention of FAB was an influential factor, allowing the air force to create their own 3D visual models of airfields economically and confidentially. Later, BEST was used to simulate the entire Dutch airspace in preparation for NATO war games, prior to the influx of several hundred NATO aircraft.

Poland’s Air Navigation Services Agency joined as a BEST customer

The Polish Air Navigation Services Agency contracted Micro Nav to provide a 360° 3D tower simulator; four 120° 3D tower simulators; 20 radar positions; five coordinator positions; and 30 pilot positions, for their training centre in Warsaw, joining other national ANSPs as a BEST customer.

Winner of the Queen’s Award

Micro Nav received the UK’s most prestigious award for business performance, the Queen's Award for Enterprise, in the category of International Trade.

Joint founder of Micro Nav retired

After 24 years' service, Fred Johnson, one of the two founders of Micro Nav, and inventors of the FIRST and BEST simulators, retired. “Fred and I have come a long way from starting the company writing software in one of his spare rooms, to the organisation we have today. Fred has been instrumental in achieving our success, and I am grateful for the help he has given me personally, as well as spending the past couple of years mentoring talent that will ensure our continued success - thanks, Fred” - Mike Male

A long history in the United Arab Emirates

In 2003, BEST was selected by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Dubai. An interface was developed to stimulate the Flight Refuelling DS1600 radar workstations. In 2005, a 2D tower simulator was added. Further enhancements led DCA (now Dubai Air Navigation Services, DANS) to claim to have the world’s largest 360º 3D tower simulator. Stimulation capabilities included the NavCanada EFPS and COIN; a link with ATRiCS TowerPad for follow-the-greens functionality; plus the Raytheon AutoTrac III. The radar and tower simulators could be connected to provide gate-to-gate training, with 13 interfaces to external systems.

Micro Nav’s first installation in South America

A projected 360° simulator was installed in Brazil for use by ICEA. The tower controller positions included elements of the operational ACAMS AS and Saipher systems, together with BEST displays.

Micro Nav granted a patent for ADAS

Micro Nav's Automatic Display Alignment System (ADAS) was granted a patent by the UK Intellectual Property Office. ADAS was used to integrate and correct the geometry and colour of projected panoramic visual displays, saving time and cost.

Micro Nav developed its own visual display system

Micro Nav became a full visual display solutions provider for its BEST tower simulation systems. The innovation of ADAS, along with commercially-sourced projectors and Micro Nav’s curved projection screen, allowed the independently-designed 3D visual displays to be naturally scalable up to full 360º at the time of installation, or at a later date.

Winner of the Queen’s Award

Micro Nav received the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in the category of Innovation for its Automatic Display Alignment System (ADAS).

BEST Real-Time simulation

In partnership with Think Research and Harris Orthogon, Micro Nav delivered BEST real-time simulation capability to BULATSA, allowing the experimentation and evaluation of new procedures and equipment.

New product for Micro Nav and Quadrant Group

Micro Nav and Quadrant Group launched Quadrant INTERACT™, a new product for flight simulators, which was installed at its first trial site in Cork, Ireland. INTERACT, a Simulated Air Traffic Control Environment (SATCE), was designed to deliver the ‘missing link’ of ATC and other traffic in synthetic flight training.

Maritime Air Systems Control simulator

The UK Royal Navy installed a combined BEST Fighter Aircraft Control Training System and Helicopter Control Trainer at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, to be used for training the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier ship’s company.

Joint founder of Micro Nav retired from operational involvement

After handing over to Stephen Williams in 2014, Mike retired from operational involvement in 2017, continuing to support the Group Board in a Non-Executive role.

3D upgrade for Ports of Jersey

Ports of Jersey upgraded its stimulated radar system to improve their training offering. The upgrade included installation of the BEST 3D Tower simulator. This provided an out-of-the-window view of Jersey Airport, along with an updated Automated Weather Observing System, accurate replication of voice communications system and lighting panel, speech recognition, plus EFSS and radar display stimulation.

Polish Air Navigation Services upgraded their BEST simulator

Ten years after initial installation, PANSA upgraded their BEST simulator suite, making it one of Micro Nav’s largest installations at an ANSP. The installation consisted of a full 360° and four three-channel BEST Tower simulators, and over 20 BEST Radar workstations.

Qatar Civil Aviation Authority scale up their BEST simulation

Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) procured a 360° BEST 3D Tower simulator, installed at the Air Traffic Control Centre and Training Facility at Hamad International Airport. The simulator utilised 18 high-performance projectors, each operating a solid-state optical engine. The existing BEST 3D Tower simulator and BEST Radar simulator, complete with BEST Link, were updated, and connected with the new BEST 3D Tower for integrated exercise scenarios and sharing of data and resources.

Long-term service agreement with SMATSA

A three-year simulator maintenance service agreement was signed with SMATSA, supporting their BEST simulator suite comprising two 180° BEST 3D Tower simulators, eight controller working positions and seven pseudo pilot positions. The tower simulators can be operated as a single 360° tower via 28 65” monitors in portrait mode.

New Managing Director appointed

Greg Pile was appointed Managing Director of Micro Nav, having re-joined the business in 2018 as Operations Director. Greg had been involved in air traffic control simulation and training since 2001, both at skyguide and Micro Nav, before taking on the role of Head of Operational Technology in the Serco Middle East ATM Division.