Aircraft simulators or flight simulators try to replicate and reproduce the experience of flying an aircraft. Simulators range from computer-based games to full-sized cockpits on hydraulic actuators with state of the art computer technology. They are now extensively used in the aviation industry for design and development and the training of air crew for both civil and military aircraft.
Aircraft simulators have proven to be an essential element for flight training for individual general aviation pilots, jet figher military pilots and airline flight crew. The simulators save time, money while increasing safety. Flight simulators can be used to train flight crews in normal and emergency operating procedures, pilots are able to practice situations that are unsafe in the aircraft itself. These may include engine failures or malfunctions of aircraft systems such as electrics, hydraulics, pressurization, flight instruments etc. They are also used to implement human factors programmes such as Crew Resource Managment and Threat and Error Management. It has been said that the cost of operating even the most top of the line flight simulator is a ratio of 1:40 compared with the cost of training in a real Boeing 747.
|During World War One and there after, there were a number of electro-mechanical devices used to teach pilots to the basic control movements of flying and how to operate machine guns. The Link Trainer produced by Edwin Link available in 1929 was produced with a pneumatic motion platform driven by bellows giving pitch, roll and yaw on which a generic cockpit was installed this was used to teach pilots instrument flying in a less expensive and less hazardous manner. Some 10,000 link trainers were used by the allied nations in the period of World War Two. The other major military simulator of the time was the Celestial Navigation Trainer at some 13.7m high it could accommodate the entire bomber crew to learn how to fly night operations. During the early 1940s analog computers were used to produce the equations for flight resulting in first electronic flight simulators. In 1948, Curtiss-Wright delivered the first complete simulator to be owned by an airline to Pan America, it was for the stratocruiser. There were no visual displays or motion but the entire cockpit instruments worked and the crews found it to be very effective. The first visual systems used a camera which responded to pilot inputs and was flown over a model of terrain then the picture would be transferred to the pilot. The use of digital computers soon followed in the 1960s. Full motion simulators came about during the 1950s; in 1954 the Link Division of General Precision Inc developed a motion simulator providing 3 degrees of motion by 1964 more compact versions could achieve 10 degrees. By 1969 airline simulators began to be built on hydraulic actuators producing six degrees of freedom (roll, pitch, yaw, lateral, longitudinal and vertical). In 1977 the airlines adopted the cab configuration with the computers placed within the cab with the wrap around catwalk we see today. Also during this period great advances were made with visual technology, in 1972 Singer-link developed a collimating lens apparatus using a beam splitter and a curved mirror greatly improving the realism of flight simulations. The Rediffussion Company in the UK introduced the Wide Angle Infinity Display Equipment in 1982 providing a seamless display from both side to side pilots these are used in most of the highest levels of flight simulators.||Image embedded from Wikipedia 4 October 2009 Image embedded from Wikipedia 4 October 2009|
- System Trainers- used to teach pilots how to operate the various aircraft systems.
- FTDs- Flight Training Devices;
- - CPTs- Cockpit Procedure Trainers are fixed based devices that have exact replicas of the cockpit instruments, switches and controls. CPTs are used for teaching crews checks and drills.
- - FTD- Mini Simulators- are also non-motion simulators but may be equipped with visual systems having the fidelity of Full Flight Simulators.
- FFS- Full Flight Simulators- duplicate all aspects of an aircraft and its environment with the use of motion in all six degrees of freedom and high fidelity visual systems.
- PTT - Part Task Trainers - are a modern low cost training tool which can typically replicate a particular piece of Avionics Equipment as a software program on your desk top computer. More advanced software programs can be built to mock up an aircraft as you would see in Commercial software such as Microsoft Flight Simulator. The key to PTTs is that they are low cost and easily upgradable as your training needs change. Companies such as Rockwell-Collins and Garmin produce such desktop software so that you can practice operating their FMS for example before you actually go flying.
Crediting Flight Time and Zero Flight Time Ratings
Pilots are limited to certain simulators for crediting instrument time in their logbooks. In New Zealand pilots can only log required training time in simulators certified by the CAA. The simulator must be proven that its performance matches that of the aircraft being simulated. The highest most capable simulator is the Level D Full Flight Simulator which an be used to qualify for Zero Flight Time conversions of experienced pilots from one aircraft type to another similar, meaning the pilot time the pilot flies the aircraft is under close supervision of a training captain on a revenue flight.
Flight Crew Training - The obvious use of a Simulator is to train the Flight Crew in normal and emergency procedures. This method of training has a lower cost, safer and provides a more efficient use of resources. For example an airline can continue to gain revenue while its aircraft remain on scheduled routes with fare paying passengers, while a crew can log valuable currency training time in a Class D Simulator.
An additional benefit of a Simulator is the higher transfer of learning which occurs when you can control the flying exercise and level of faults which are being applied to a specific proficiency level of the crew.
Evaluation - Simulators allow research to be conducted in a variety of areas: Human Factors, Equipment and Procedural development and even Accident Investigation to name a few. Due to the high fidelity of modern Simulators, research programs can be relied on the test, evaluate and validate all manner of aviation systems. Areas such as procedural development of an Airports airspace and runway environment using a crew to test and evaluate various airborne operations in all weather conditions can prove to be very valuable.
Technical Development - increasingly software engineering teams are using Simulators to test their modifications and in the case of new airliners such as the Boeing 787, a large portion of the testing of systems can be done onboard a Full or Partial Flight Deck Simulator.
New aircraft safety systems can be pushed well beyond safe and economically viable boundaries when a Simulator is used to find or push the flight envelope. Once again the high Fidelity means that a large degree of science can be applied to any findings and a lot of confidence can be gained from these tests.
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In 2004 the 9/11 Commission in the United States concluded that the individual responsible for flying airlines into the World Trade Center and Pentagon had used computer based simulators for training. Zacarias Moussaoui one of the hijackers had flight simulation software on his computer at the time of his arrested and in his trial it was determined it was used to increase his flying skills. In 1999, Yuji Nishizawa fatally stabbed a pilot and hijacked a 747 over Tokyo flying it within 1000ft above the ground before being subdued; it was later revealed his was a flight simulator fan wanting to fly the real thing. In 2005 Jack Thompson, attorney and anti-video game activist openly accused Microsoft of aiding terrorist organizations in its popular Microsoft Flight Simulator.