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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Helicopter Training: From the Factories

Marcia Hillary Kay

AgustaWestland, Saab Develop Door Gunner Trainer

AgustaWestland and Saab Training Systems have developed an airborne cabin/door gun training system utilizing existing helicopter weapon installations.

The new system is designed to enable any flight to be used as a training mission and allow gunners to get realistic experience without the need for becoming involved in live-fire training or dedicated gunnery flights.

The system uses the new BT46 Mk.2 simulator, which is designed to provide realism, in combination with an integrated mission recorder, giving the gunner immediate feedback as well as detailed after-action reviews.

The system is similar to the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (Miles) used by the U.S. Army. Used for training purposes, the system operates by placing a sensor on a target and laser designator on the gun in the helicopter. The training system has been used in tactical combat vehicles since 1980.

Bell to Host CFI Refresher at ALEA

Bell Helicopter will sponsor a flight instructor refresher course at the Airborne Law Enforcement Meeting this month in Orlando, Fla.

Led by a team of instructors from the Bell Helicopter Training Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, it is designed for helicopter flight instructors who want to renew their flight instructor certificates under FAA Part 61. The two-day class will cover a variety of topics. Following the class, an FAA official will review training requirements for helicopter initial and additional ratings.

Eurocopter Adding Sims, FTDs in Germany, Texas

Eurocopter will be installing flight training devices and six-axis, full-motion simulators for its light, twin-engine EC135 in its Donauwörth, Germany and Grand Prairie, Texas facilities by the end of the year.

The simulators are designed to increase safety and offer pilots a realistic mission environment in which they can improve their handling of emergencies, demonstrate operational proficiency and train independent of weather conditions or aircraft availability. The simulators are to be certified for training in March 2008.

The devices are being developed by CAE and Indra in cooperation with Eurocopter. Training courses will be offered by Eurocopter in Europe and the United States and will include standard and recurrent training such as type rating, emergency refresher, IFR, and GPS approaches. Eurocopter also plans courses in specific mission training.

Where Are the Single-Engine Heli Sims?

No one can argue that flight simulators — and their motionless little brother, the flight training device (FTD) — are wonderful learning tools.

Where else can pilots experience nearly every inflight circumstance without endangering themselves or the aircraft? Do you want to practice landing in a 20-kt, 90-deg. crosswind? Go ahead. Maybe you want to work on engine failures during climbout. No problem. How about an approach with less than 3 mi visibility? Just punch it into the parameters, and seconds later the simulator or FTD will give the appropriate readings on the instrumentation, a visually accurate outside view, and (in the case of a true flight simulator) the corresponding sense of motion. Your only limitation is your imagination, and the actual parameters of the aircraft the system replicates.

Name the civil jetliner, turboprop or multi-engine helicopter, and someone has probably manufactured a flight simulator for it. It’s a different story for light helicopters, however. Currently, there are no non-military full-motion flight simulators built to replicate single-engine helicopters.

How can this be when single-engine rotorcraft make up a dominant portion of the helicopter world?

The makers of full-motion flight sims argue that training on a $9-16 million simulator is penny-wise for jet, turboprop and twin-engine helicopter pilots, because it costs less than flying the actual aircraft. A single-engine heli-sim, which would be close to the same amount to develop and build, would cost significantly more to fly than the real thing. Consequently, the latter community is forced to train in the real world aboard real aircraft, and learn to deal with hazardous situations through lesser forms of make-believe and verbal story-telling.

An FTD, on the other hand, costs much less to produce. At $40,000-100,000 for a quality, FAA-certified system, it may not move or have the faithfully reproduced interior of the bigger, more expensive flight simulator, but it is more practical to build. And unlike a full-blown simulator, which can weigh 13 tons and must be housed in a large building, an FTD can be small enough to fit in the corner of a small room or made portable. Simulator builders are sympathetic to the hole in the flight sim market, and are looking closely at building systems that can mimic a variety of aircraft in one unit. By designing the instrument panel as a graphic display on a monitor, a simple software change can transform the gauges found in a Bell twin to the panel inside of a Robinson. Programming the flying characteristics to morph with the change in aircraft is the part that isn’t so easy.

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