Rick Adams looks at how training companies are getting creative about keeping the simulators humming
The dramatic drop in oil prices and the scaling back of offshore oil and gas exploration has had a predictable ripple effect on helicopter sales and operations. Meanwhile, the business jet sector continues to look for the elusive upward trend against a gloomy global economic forecast. To help fill their classrooms and simulators, training companies are getting creative with new ideas to improve pilot and maintainer skills.
FlightSafety International has developed and bundled four new advanced training courses into a Master Aviator certificate programme, modelled after its popular Master Technician scheme which has produced more than 3,000 graduates. The four one-day courses include Rejected Takeoff Go/No-Go, Crew Resource Management/Human Factors Line-Oriented Flight Training (LOFT), Energy Management, and Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT).
“The Master Aviator courses are about rounding out the knowledge of the pilot,” said Steve Gross, Vice President, Commercial. “You really have to understand the basic airplane first.” An initial type rating in the aircraft and at least one recurrent training session are required before enrolment.
“We took a long look at some of the major issues that are causing accidents, not only in business aviation but in the commercial world,” Gross noted. For example, on the go/no go issue, one manufacturer found a significant fatality increase for pilots who tried to stop after V1. “We train them to get the airplane airborne, get it cleaned up, get it back around and on the runway, typically within 90 seconds.”
The LOFT “is taking CRM to the next level”. It might involve an ocean crossing with loss of pressurisation, perhaps at a time when the aircraft must descend through the flight ‘tracks‘ followed by commercial airliners – “pretty critical because the spacing is so tight. You have to work together as a crew to be successful.”
The energy management course is getting back to basic physics, kinetic energy, aircraft mass, pitch angle, and planning ahead for stabilised approaches.
The UPRT course, which is also about understanding aerodynamics but in a crisis circumstance, is currently available only for the Gulfstream GV and G550 aircraft, but Gross told EVA that FlightSafety is working with OEMs to incorporate the capability on other types.
In the rotary arena, New York-headquartered FlightSafety will offer Level D simulator training for the Airbus Helicopters EC145 at Metro Aviation’s Helicopter Flight Training Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. They have also received US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for a Level D Sikorsky S76C+/C++ simulator in Singapore.
Goose Creek, South Carolina-headquartered TRU Simulation + Training, Textron’s new de facto provider of simulators and training services for Beechcraft, Cessna and Bell Helicopter aircraft, is rapidly expanding the offerings at its ProFlight training centres in Carlsbad, California and Tampa, Florida. By the end of 2016, it plans to add a Cessna Citation CJ4 simulator at the West Coast facility as well as Citation CJ3+ and Citation M2 sims on the East Coast. The Tampa site, opened last year, is also the first pilot training centre to offer instruction on the new Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion-equipped King Air 350i aircraft.
Ian K Walsh, TRU’s new President and CEO, told EVA: “Our strategic focus right now is to build the simulator portfolio we need to support the current Textron product lines. We are positioning simulators geographically around the world to support our customers’ training in a regional environment.”
TRU has provided a CJ3 full-flight simulator to business aircraft operator Star Wings in Dortmund, Germany. TRU is also producing a Bell 429 simulator destined for Valencia, Spain later this year.
In Wichita, Kansas, TRU took a page from the FlightSafety business model – a Part 147 maintenance training centre. The 35,000 square-foot facility opened in December with courses for the King Air 350i. This year, TRU plans to add courses for King Air 250 and C90GTx, Beechcraft Baron and Bonanza, and the Cessna CJ series, as well as McCauley propeller courses.
CAE has done “a complete review and refresh” of its business aviation general courses, according to Camille Mariamo, Vice President and General Manager, Business Aviation, Helicopter, and Maintenance Training. The number of alternate recurrent courses has been expanded from 26 to 41 modules, and includes such topics as rejected takeoff, fire in flight, cockpit distraction management, and operations in polar regions and areas of magnetic unreliability. Mariamo said many of the courses are qualified to International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) criteria.
CAE is apparently ignoring the downward trend in oil and gas. In March it received Airbus Helicopters’ blessing for its Oslo, Norway facility as an approved simulation centre for H225 recurrent training. CAE is the first independent simulation training provider to receive such distinction.
Nearer to its Montréal, Canada headquarters, CAE will operate a new helicopter training and research and development (R&D) centre in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland on behalf of the Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC) consortium of large offshore oil firms. A Sikorsky S92 simulator will feature the first approved night vision training capability in Canada. HMDC helicopter service provider Cougar Helicopters will train its pilots at the centre, which will be located adjacent to the new offshore safety and survival training centre of Falck Safety Services Canada, which includes a wave pool to train safe exit of workers from helicopters in various environmental conditions.
A new civil helicopter full-flight simulator manufacturer sprang up this year in Europe. Reiser Simulation and Training, headquartered in Berg, Germany, is building its first Level D device for the Airbus Helicopters model H145 (formerly Eurocopter EC145T2). The simulator will be deployed at the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Academy, which was started several years ago at the Bonn-Hangelar airbase by the air ambulance arm of the German automobile club, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC). ADAC operates more than 50 helicopters.
Reiser is a 25-year-old, 200-employee family business which started by doing cable harnesses and other aircraft components and more recently avionics test equipment, simulator components, full-scale helicopter maintenance training rigs for the NH90, and flight training solutions for the Pilatus PC-21 turboprop and Eurofighter Typhoon.
Rather than purchase pricey OEM data packages, Reiser has opted to do its own data acquisition and flight modelling. “We decided that in order to provide the utmost in realism and also provide a cost-effective solution for the long term, we would develop our own data model of the aircraft,” said CEO Roman Sperl. “We performed comprehensive data acquisition through an extensive series of flights on a specially equipped H145. Our team of experts put the helicopter through a full range of flying scenarios under a wide spectrum of conditions and mission situations.”
The H145 simulator will feature Quantum3D’s Independence IDX 8000 visual system for out-the-window and night vision capabilities, driving 15 visual channels. The sim is scheduled to be installed at the ADAC HEMS Academy in 2017 and will operate on a ’power by the hour’ model, with ownership retained by newly-formed subsidiary Reiser Training Services.
Thales has achieved European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) Level D approval for its Airbus Helicopters H225 (Eurocopter EC225) Reality H helicopter simulator in Stavanger, Norway. Thales’ launch customers include Blueway Offshore Norway AS and Dancopter in Denmark.
The simulator will train pilots on multiple missions such as oil and gas or search and rescue (SAR) in the North Sea. “We want the training here to become a gold standard for any operator wishing to have their pilots ready for any mission in the harshest and most challenging environments imaginable,” said Jean–Jacques Guittard, Thales Vice President and General Manager of Training and Simulation.
Thales opened its first helicopter training centre in Albertville, France in 2014 with a full motion Level B Airbus AS350 AStar simulator. The next Thales centre will be launched in Australia, although no aircraft type nor date have yet been made public.
Frasca International, based in Urbana, Illinois, has developed a couple of innovative technologies to improve the training effectiveness and efficiency of pilot training for light helicopters. A unique 6-inch stroke mini-motion system (compared to the typical 60-inch stroke system of Level D full-flight simulators) is being applied to flight training devices (FTDs). CEO John Frasca told EVA, “With this small motion platform, we can put an onset cue on when it should be there – when the pilot’s mind is expecting it to happen.” The first short-stroke system is on a Bell 206L Level 7 FTD for Air Evac Lifeteam in O’Fallon, Missouri.
The company’s other new twist, SimAssist, is a software programme that can provide automatic assistance to the student in real time by adapting to the student’s task proficiency. “SimAssist dynamically monitors how the pilot is flying, and if he’s doing really poorly it stabilises the helicopter,” explained Frasca. “It’s much like a flight instructor guarding the controls or taking over when things get out of control.”
Frasca has enjoyed wide-ranging success in the helicopter market recently: an R44/Schweizer S300 convertible Level 5 FTD for Xilin Fengteng GA’s Guanghang, China facility; an AS350B Level 7 FTD for HNZ Group, to be installed at Edmonton airport; a Bell 407 GX full-flight simulator to the Bell Helicopter Training Academy in Fort Worth, Texas; and a Bell 407 flight and navigation procedures trainer (FNPT) II to Horizon International Flight Academy in the United Arab Emirates.
On the fixed-wing side, a Frasca Cessna 172S Level 6 FTD with Garmin G1000 avionics and G700 autopilot, installed at the Korean Aerospace University flight training centre on Jeju Island, is being used by Korean Air Lines for its initial pilot training programme.
Elite Simulation Systems in Dubendorf, Switzerland, is developing a new helicopter training device in the advanced aviation training device (AATD)/FNPT II category, but with a sophisticated visual terrain database developed in-house and based on a powerful gaming engine. The visuals will reflect the wide variety of mountain, value, and urban areas encountered by Swiss and European helicopter operators, as well as the extremes of weather conditions. Elite is working with Next Generation Flight Training GmbH in nearby Cham on an aeronautical decision-making course for pilots.
Finally, SimCom Aviation Training Centers has expanded its simulator base. A Citation Mustang simulator is being installed this year in the Phoenix, Arizona area. A Level D Citation XLS sim is delivering training in Orlando, Florida. And there’s a Garmin G600/GTN-750-equipped King Air B200 simulator at the company’s Dallas location. SimCom currently operates 57 simulators at its three US sites.