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Trends in Helicopter Simulation and Pilot Training
Eye on FRASCA


35 years ago, the only helicopter simulator training done was in the military and  it was used primarily for instrument qualification.  At that time, visual systems were in their infancy and the cost and complexity ruled out simulator use for most commercial customers. Today the use of flight simulators in helicopter training is booming. Two major developments have driven the transition to simulator training.  First, the expansion of further offshore oil exploration has driven the demand for flying larger, more complex aircraft.  Second, improvements in computer programming allow realistic, animated scenes suitable for helicopter training.

As helicopter pilot training trends toward utilizing flight simulators more frequently, Frasca International has worked hard to develop new simulation technology and training scenarios designed to enhance realism that ultimately results in better trained, safer pilots. The future of simulation in helicopter  training is clearly bright with prospects in all major business areas including oil and gas, emergency medical, parapublic, and transportation.  With the development of high resolution visual systems, operators can now concentrate on both VFR and IFR mission training, including such tasks as night vision goggles, FLIR, offshore operations, hospital landings, point-in-space approaches, white-out/brown-out, confined area operations, landing on ships and more.

Frasca’s helicopter devices are much more individual and customized because of these specialized mission training requirements and their experience allows them to offer the device to meet each customer’s specific needs.  In order to meet the wide range of requirements and budgets, Frasca builds a complete range of helicopter devices.  From entry level fixed based Flight Training Devices (FTDs) for Levels (3 - 7),  to Full Flight Simulators (FFSs) with six axis motion bases (Levels B – D).  In recent years, Frasca has delivered FFSs for the EC225, S92 and most recently a dual qualified S76 Level B FFS/FTD3 simulator for Bristow Group.

One of the most important helicopter products Frasca offers is the dual-qualified Level 7 FTD / Level B FFS, because of the high level of fidelity, visual database, and NVG training possibilities.  In addition, a Level 7 FTD / Level B FFS offers a realistic alternative to the much more costly Level D FFS with very little difference in training capability.

Frasca has worked closely with several other customers to meet their unique requirements and often provides upgrades and modifications of existing equipment as training needs evolve. The Japan Coast Guard for example, has ordered a Model 342 TruFliteH™ FTD configured as a Bell 206. Because this device will be located in an area prone to flooding, it will be elevated to prevent water damage should  a flood occur.  Another customer, Bristow Academy, located in Titusville, FL has a Bell 206 TruFliteH™ and a second TruFliteH™ FTD configured as an S300. The Bristow FTDs include TruVision™ Global 2,  three-channel, 180-degree visual system with a custom database for KTIX (the Spacecoast Regional Airport) and the surrounding Bristow Academy training area.  In the law enforcement sector, the German Federal Police (NSPA) have ordered two new devices (an EC155 FTD2 FNPT III MCC and an AS332 L1 FTD2 FNPT III MCC) and will be upgrading their existing Frasca EC135 simulator.

Simulation technology is always improving and some areas that Frasca is working on include increased visual fidelity and visual system features.  Infrared style projectors will be used for NVG training and visual databases will also become more refined as high resolution imagery becomes more affordable.  Modeling for airports and cities will become more affordable as commercial libraries for these become more widespread.  Today they deliver country-size databases with tens of thousands of buildings.  The driving limitation is the source data for those buildings.
 
In the near future, instructor stations will offer more features for enhanced learning and improved operating system interface, to include the use of tablets. Additionally, student evaluation will become more automated and systems will provide tools for automatically scoring pilot performance.  Frasca has been using some of the evaluation technology for years, but it generally requires the development of a complex script.  There is a lot of room for growth in technology that automatically scores performance that can provide instructors with objective analysis for reference in debrief. Anything that can reliably automate operational and objective tasks, will allow the instructor to pay more attention to the pilot.

Simulation of the ATC environment is already available in Frasca simulators.  This includes the representation of additional air traffic in the visual scene, as well as audible radio traffic.  Scenarios can be built to automate the simulator session making for a richer training environment that prepares the pilot for real flight.  It is foreseen that this technology will develop so that the environment is automatically generated based on artificial intelligence.  Additional aircraft traffic will be autonomously generated and appear both visually and audibly via the radios..

The future demand of helicopter simulator training is looking up with new technology and training requirements. Quality simulation products, along with a well conceived curriculum, will result in both reduced training costs and accident rates while freeing up valuable aircraft time.  All of this leads to better trained pilots.  Everybody wins.

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