Canada-based CAE has been in the business of developing simulation training since 1947, delivering more than 120 helicopter synthetic training devices, modeling a variety of helicopters from nine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in both the civil and military markets. On July 20, CAE hosted Rotor & Wing at company headquarters in Montreal for the unveiling of the first full-motion 3000 Series helicopter flight and mission simulator. The simulator models the Sikorsky S-76C++, and was scheduled for shipping to Zhuhai Flight Training Center in China by the end of July.
During the event, Philippe Perey, senior director of global business development and strategic initiatives at CAE explained that the 3000 Series “has been optimized for civil helicopter training needs, by bringing the highest fidelity simulation to the market at the lowest cost to operators.” The 3000 Series might be considered mid-level when placed in line with CAE’s full spectrum of training devices, yet still displays the higher fidelity required of U.S. FAA and European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) Level D certification.
CAE sim pilot Barry Silver approaches a virtual offshore platform. Photos by Frank Lombardi
In researching the civil helicopter market requirements, CAE noted that statistically, almost 25 percent of all civil helicopter accidents occur during training. Traditionally, simulation training has largely focused on cockpit procedural training. In retrospect, CAE felt that a shift from task-based to mission-based scenario modeling was required. The company’s goals have shifted to focus on reducing the helicopter accident rate through realistic simulation training in the environment and scenarios that helicopter operations routinely occur. For this to be effective, the visuals had to be more immersive, the flight modeling more accurate, and the databases more expansive.
The 3000 Series simulators accomplish this by combining the robust CAE “Tropos 6000” visual image generating system with commercially-available off-the-shelf projectors and the latest video processors found in today’s high-end gaming platforms for a low-cost solution.
However, exceptional visuals alone do not make an effective simulation. According to Alberto Costa, vice president of global business development, CAE was the first to use “blade element theory” when modeling rotor aerodynamics in the 1980s, and the company continues to employ it today, albeit with the help of more powerful processors. Blade element modeling is a mathematical process of breaking up a rotor blade into small pieces, calculating the aerodynamic forces on each piece, then adding up all those pieces, providing a very accurate flight model.
Avionics panel on the S-76 simulator.
Combining this with advanced modeling of wind dynamics over mountains, turbulence around structures and vessels, and artificially intelligent vehicle and personnel movements results in more realistic scenario-based training. This technology is already present in all of CAE’s fixed-base 3000 Series helicopter flight training devices (FTDs), however I was anxious to find out how the addition of motion (making it a full flight simulator, or FFS) would affect the experience.
Read Frank Lombardi’s full report from inside the cockpit of the 3000 Series S-76C++ simulator online starting Sept. 1 and in the September print edition of Rotor & Wing.
Related: Training & Simulation News