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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Helicopter Training: From the Field

Marcia Hillary Kay

Atlantis Demonstrates Virtual Task Trainer

Atlantis Systems International of Brampton, Ontario, gave attendees at the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn.’s 37th Annual Convention a sample of virtual reality with their Helicopter Virtual Task Trainer.

Looking like a cross between an amusement park ride and a full-motion flight simulator, the trainer puts the pilot and a set of flight controls atop a full-motion platform with six degrees of freedom. The aircraft’s interior (including instrument panel), and all outside views are presented through the pilot’s virtual-reality goggles.

At the heart of the trainer is software that provides rich graphics of real-world regions, as well as the interior of one or more selected helicopters. The demonstrator is programmed to represent a Bell Helicopter 206. With goggles on, you can see every part of the virtual outside world and aircraft interior within your normal field of view, even to the extent of being able to look into the back seat. According to the company, the graphics pan at the same rate as the pilot’s head movements.

"The trainer is a realistic flight complement to the helicopter, the full-mission simulator, and flight training device," said Bob Monette, marketing director for international training systems. "It allows pilots to perform the practical, critical tasks demanded of them every day and night." Training can be guided and monitored from an instructor station included with the system. According to Monette, each system is built to meet the training needs of the individual customer, so the price can vary with the number of regions and aircraft models requested. Even with that variable, he said the system can cost $1 million or less, which is half the cost of a conventional simulator using wrap-around monitors and a full cockpit mock-up. — Ernie Stephens

First Qatari Woman Certified to Fly Helicopters

The Gulf Helicopter Co. has hired Qatar’s first female helicopter pilot. Munira al-Dusari earned her pilot’s license from the Jordan-based Middle East Academy for Flying and the U.S.-based Bristow Academy. She had qualified for flying passenger aircraft but had failed in an attempt to fly for Qatar Airways. She then switched to helicopter training, a feat she found more difficult than flying fixed-wing aircraft. Mohamed Ibrahim al-Muhanndi, general manager of Gulf Helicopters, said the company has developed plans for expansion and is in talks with the National Health Authority to implement a helicopter ambulance project. He said that Qatar is clear about increasing the number of Qataris in Gulf Helicopters. The country has also started a project to implement helicopter firefighting. Gulf Helicopters provided support for al-Dusari to receive her commercial license.

Bristow Academy Transfers Aircraft to California Facility

Bristow Academy in Concord, Calif. has sold its oldest aircraft, two Schweizer 300CBs and replaced them with two new 300CBis. The new aircraft will be sent from Bristow’s academy in Titusville, Fla. The acquisition of the new aircraft will enable Bristow to develop its mountain course and continue the day-to-day training for the people who live in the San Francisco Bay area. In April, Bristow purchased Helicopter Adventures.

Civic Helicopters on the Move

Civic Helicopters, Carlsbad, Calif.,signed a 40-yr lease with San Diego County, Calif. and has moved into a new location at Palomar Airport, across the highway from its former facility. It has been a helicopter flight school since 1987. Chin Tu, president of the company, said the company has outgrown its facility at the old Hughes Helicopters facility. The new facility has a 10,000-sq-ft-plus hangar and 12,000 sq ft of office space. The company is hoping to fill the growing demand for services. Currently, the company provides flight training to pilots and officers of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept., the San Diego Police Dept., and the FAA. It has been an authorized service center for Bell Helicopter, MD Helicopters, Robinson Helicopter Co. and Schweizer Aircraft. Civic is looking to add other major helicopter manufacturer service centers. It says it is the only helicopter fixed-base operator with multiple helicopters available.

Firm Offers Trainer For Gimbal System Operators

Aerosimulators, Prescott, Ariz. has unveiled a unique training device: a gimbal imaging systems trainer.

The trainer frees up a helicopter for use while the imager operator is being trained on the system in a classroom environment. The trainer is available in a visual mode as well as low-light and infrared, environments encountered in law enforcement and news-gathering operations. The system costs $35,000, said Aerosimulators CEO Mike Coligny. It weighs 175 lb and may be plugged in for use. Aerosimulators was started in 1999 as a spin-off of a helicopter operator and training school.

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