Home' Heliweb Magazine : Heliweb Magazine February 2016 Contents 16 heliweb magazine
The Instructors’ Station
Sitting in a flight simulator, especially
an FTD or AATD/BATD which
doesn’t offer a full motion platform,
can be a challenge even for the
most experienced of pilots. I have
one helicopter pilot friend with many
thousands of hours that has to take
Dramamine to avoid nausea before
doing his annual simulator training re -
qualification required by his company.
The simulator makes him ill due to
the moving visuals, but the simulator
not moving like a helicopter would.
Some people, on the other hand, are perfectly
fine in a sim environment; it varies by person, of
course. One complaint frequently heard from
pilots using some simulators that have proprietary
visual systems is lack of realism of what they
are seeing out of the cockpit “windows,” or
the screens in front of them in the sim. This can
contribute somewhat to what I mentioned earlier
as sustained “altered reality” periods can cause
many things from disorientation, to motion sickness.
When a simulator’s visual system is lacking,
that can be a contributing factor to nauseam.
The eye perceives visual cues, like undulating
water, horizons, or other factors such as
weather simulations— any of which can all
trick your brain into believing you are actually
in an aircraft. That said, incorrect visuals can
also confuse your body’s senses; the end result
can be one of the above mentioned reactions.
One of the issues associated with proprietary
systems, as opposed to modular third party
simulator platforms, is that often the proprietary
systems are somewhat behind the curve in realism.
Be it accurate weather depiction, authentic
looking scenery, accurate and visually appealing
PIOs along the way that match charts, or even
authentically-performing artificial intelligence
traffic (a simulation of arriving, departing, and in-
transit traffic of other commercial and GA aviation
aircraft in the environment), the pilot’s immersion
factor can be less than appealing on many levels.
Another disadvantage to a proprietary system
is knowledge base. I have met operators that
have purchased proprietary systems from smaller
companies that have, after the purchase and
installation, closed their doors for business, leaving
the operator high and dry if something goes wrong.
That issue can be twofold; if they use a proprietary
system for visuals, unless someone else out there
knows how to program it once they are no
longer around to service it, you as the operator
have a very expensive paperweight. From the
perspective of the physical controls and gauges
that manufacturers chose to install, you could very
well be in the same situation as another operator I
know of; every control input device was in-house,
and once a control input like a collective or cyclic
malfunctions, without off the shelf parts, you
are right back to having a paperweight again.
Simulator visuals systems, control input devices,
and items like cockpit dials and simulated GPS
units are things you want to ask questions about
from a manufacturer or third party seller before
you invest a significant amount of money. Most
operators that read this column are not going to
invest in a Level D simulator with full motion. It is
realistic to assume that most operators’ budgets
fits more into the range of an ATD or AATD range.
Replacing a control input and calibrating it
to function correctly is not something for your
average techie to install, so be sure to investigate
the company you are looking at purchasing from
and ask how long they have been in the business.
Don’t be afraid to ask about other clients
they have done work for and ask them for
references— especially on maintenance
and service contracts that can be vital
to the survival of your training device.
On the visuals side, if you are dealing with a
company that is not Frasca, Flight Safety, or
CAE —all of whom use proprietary software to
run their systems— investigate what third party
system they are installing for visuals and evaluate
whether or not that system works for you. In the
third party simulator market, there are really only
two backend producers of capable software that
are robust enough to pass FAA certification if you
need a certified simulator; X-plane being the first,
and P3D from Lockheed Martin being the second.
P3D was adapted from the commercial version
of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X product.
Its release in 2006 was met with less-than-
stellar reviews, as it was designed ahead of
the capabilities of systems that could run it. Fast
forward ten years, and the sale of the source code
to Lockheed Martin, and you have a simulator
platform that is somewhat mind blowing. Once
you add some after market third party scenery
from a company like Orbx Simulations, and
couple it with other enhancers such as continual
reworking of the source code to enable things that
many thought impossible —such as trees that sway
in the wind and grass that flutters in the downwash
from a helicopter— the results are amazing.
The X-Plane offering is far less superior in
graphic ability and “immersion factor,” but is the
leader as far as being able to simulate accurate
flight characteristics— something the P3D
platform is still constantly working to improve.
It really all boils down to this: Do
your research! It will save you time,
money, and frustration in the long run.
Lauren in currently the Director of Operations
for Elite Simulation Centers in Orlando,
Florida. Lauren started writing to show the
benefits of simulation technology with the
industry to show that with a combination
of simualtion traning and real world
applocation, simulators are a valuable
asset to ant flight school or operator. Lauren
in a commercial fixed wing pilot and
aims to complete her rotorocraft addon.
Simulator Visual Performance
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