“The full-motion simulator remains the gold standard, but the specialist market of flight training devices is undergoing a sustained period of disruption as lower-cost technologies and imaginative thinking redraw the landscape for trainee pilots.
From virtual-and augmented -reality headsets to enhanced graphical displays and on to refurbished cabins from scrapped aircraft, simulation and training providers are finding new ways to enhance realism while making their products and services more affordable. At the same time, sensing technology is being turned back onto the trainee and combined with artificial-intelligence and data-analytics tools to help training providers understand exactly which parts of their syllabus are having an impact with trainees.”
CAE’s Medallion MR e-Series Visual System
A full-motion simulator may be considered the pinnacle of flight-training-device architecture, but if the trainee’s seat is moving, some deterioration in the quality of the image that is projected will have to be accepted as a necessary compromise. When seat motion is not required, image quality can be ratcheted up several notches. CAE’s Medallion MR e-Series Visual System boasts 120 Hz resolution, optimization for use with night-vision goggles, 360-deg. field of view, and access to the Open Geospatial Consortium’s Common Data Base, ensuring the landscapes rendered are accurate. It is in use with the RAF’s Typhoon Future Synthetic Training program.
CAE Sprint VR trainer
As part of the UK defense ministry’s Military Flight Training System, Ascent Flight Training is currently running trials at RAF Valley to investigate the potential of using virtual-reality technologies in future fast-jet pilot training. In this photograph, a trainee uses the Sprint VR trainer, developed by CAE and here simulating a generic aircraft modeled on the venerable T-6 Texan.
CAE Sprint VR trainer
Sensors in the Sprint VR system’s headset track the trainee pilot’s eye movements. In this image, the blue circle represents where the pilot was looking at that particular moment. These images are recorded, and can be displayed both in real time to an instructor during the simulated flight, and/or afterwards, during a debrief, where the trainee can review what they did in detail.
CAE Sprint VR trainer
This image is representative of what a trainee will see in their headset when using CAE’s Sprint VR trainer. This enables the trainee to gain much of the immersive experience of a full-flight simulator, but in a much smaller space and at a fraction of the cost. The seat provides physical cues via vibration, and the physical controls—joystick, throttle and pedals—are programmed to respond to touch in the same way at the same phase of flight as they would do in the real aircraft.
EURAMEC A320 Sim Buildup
Although it has carved out a niche as a supplier of low-cost training devices, Euramec has also begun to expand its own capabilities. In 2019, the firm licensed a data pack from Airbus that enabled it to build its first A320 simulator, also using recycled A320 cockpits.
EURAMEC Do228NG Sim for General Atomics
Euramec’s commercial opportunities include older aircraft types that are no longer supported for training purposes, or are in use in such small numbers that it would not be cost-effective for one of the bigger simulator manufacturers to develop a high-fidelity simulator. Kenyan charter airline KASAS commissioned Euramec to build a simulator for its Dornier 228s in 2019. Another 228 device has been supplied to General Atomics Europe, following the sale of the Dornier 228 production line to the U.S.-based group.
EURAMEC Sim Parts Stockroom
Euramec is one of the newer names in simulators, and arrived in the industry via an unusual route. The company’s early history was as a supplier of electronic components, but founder Bert Buyle fused this with his interest in aviation, and decided to try to build a replica of Garmin’s G1000 avionics system. Having done that, the company began designing platform-specific cockpit reproductions to house the system. Its first sale, in 2016, was to a Belgian flight school for a Diamond DA-42 training device. The photo shows the company’s simulator parts stockroom.
Collins Aerospace Panorama MFP (Modular Front Projection) display system
Another kind of lower-cost, high-resolution simulator has been developed by Collins Aerospace’s simulation team at Burgess Hill, UK. The Panorama MFP (Modular Front Projection) display system has been designed to fit into locations with limited space: it can be installed in a conventional office or classroom.
EURAMEC Stand-alone Sim Station
For those trainees at the earliest stages of developing their piloting skills, a professional training device may not need to offer a much higher level of fidelity than that derived from desktop computers. Belgian simulator specialist Euramec markets its standalone Sim Station to flight schools looking for affordable entry-level solutions.
Collins Aerospace FTD Camera Light Path
One of the limiting factors in generating large, high-resolution imagery suitable for large flight simulators is the “roll off” of luminescence and resolution. An image generated by a single projector and displayed on a screen will fade and degrade visually towards the edges of the projection area. Collins’ Panorama MFP system addresses this issue by inverting the image, bouncing it onto the screen, and ensuring the problem areas are at the top—where image quality will be less noticeable. The system is being launched as a commercial product here in Dubai.
VRM Switzerland R22 System
Another device that requires less space to install than a conventional full-flight simulator is the R22 system designed by VRM Switzerland. The system combines elements of full-motion sim design with a virtual-reality headset to deliver a representation of the Robinson R22 helicopter. The simulator has achieved EASA qualification.
From virtual and augmented-reality headsets to enhanced graphical displays, simulation and training providers are finding new ways to enhance realism.