Air Transport World

Demand for simulators rises as technology builds utility.

Demand for simulators rises as technology builds utility

About six years ago, around the turn of the decade, aircraft simulator technology experienced a boom of unprecedented proportions, literally coming into the daylight to give carriers the resources to conduct all flight training on the ground. In a best-of-all-worlds situation, the expanded use of simulators allows airlines to give crews comprehensive training that goes far beyond the bounds of what any sane person would attempt in an airplane, yet at a fraction of the cost of using an airplane.

In that relatively brief period, simulators have evolved from simple night displays to a state-of-the-art system complete with working weather radar, sound systems, a seemingly endless supply of inflight emergencies, and a wraparound daylight visual system that causes jaws to drop open in astonishment.

Driving much of this development was the announcement by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that it would allow more training in simulators if the simulators were better. Despite grumblings from some quarters that FAA expected too much--the weather radar was thought to be an especially tough nut to crack--all three phases of sophistication were certificated in very few years. Now the certification of another Phase III simulator, capable of filling all pilot training needs, hardly raises an eyebrow.

Technology has not stood still in the intervening years since the first Phase III certification, but its effects are less obvious, and generally less spectacular, than the advances so recently achieved.

"Technical advancements will improve price rather than performance,' said Byron Cavadias, president of Montreal-based CAE Electronics. The price Cavadias refers to is not only the initial purchase tab, but the cost of maintenance.

Gordon Stred, VP-marketing at The Singer Company's Flight Simulation Div., agrees with Cavadias. "Technology is an area we focus on to reduce the cost of ownership and increase training utility. The technology has become so good that advances have been turned to making it cheaper.'

Marion Griffith, VP-general manager of Rediffusion Inc., agrees in part, but points to newly developed visual systems that enhance training realism while costing more. …

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