New Center Offers Firefighting Training

The U.S. Forest Service, NASA and the University of California at Davis are teaming up to bring a new level of sophistication and effectiveness to training air crews and mission managers for aerial firefighting.

Along with representatives from private industry, those partners have opened an Aviation Center of Excellence at the former McClellan AFB north of Sacramento, Calif. that includes a firefighting training simulator. The brainchild of Dennis Brown and Dennis Hulbert of the Forest Service, the suite of computers allow fire-attack teams to simulate the simultaneous operations of six aircraft and an attack coordinator working over a fireground.


According to Brown, previously firefighting pilots have only been able to train in the classroom, which doesn't offer hands-on experience, and in actual helicopters and airplanes, which is expensive and risky. The simulator system offers a safe, low-cost option.

The simulator can generate a mix of fixed-wing airtankers and helicopters operating together. Each pilot sits in a cubicle with three or four computer screens simulating the view from his aircraft's windows and radio headsets to communicate on different frequencies with dispatchers and other pilots in the simulation.

The computers are programmed to emulate the flight characteristics of different aircraft types as well as the characteristics of different types, sizes and intensities of wild fires.

India's Aviation Boom Eludes Helo Market

India's aviation industry may be booming, with airlines luring pilots from competitors and snatching up instructors from flight schools and flying clubs. But the boom isn't benefiting helicopter pilots yet, according to The Business Standard of India. That nation is clearly a huge potential helicopter market. In fact, Eurocopter chief Fabrice Bregier said at last month's Paris Air Show that Eurocopter is tapping Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. under a manufacturing partnership to help assure itself a place in that market.

But the emphasis remains on "potential." India's huge population and inadequate transportation infrastructure makes it fertile ground for development of helicopter applications. Its air ambulance market is nearly nonexistent, for instance. But current market is limited and operators there don't seem anxious to expand it. The Business Standard quoted a top official of Hindustan Aeronautics's Rotary Wing Academy in Bangalore as saying there are 80-100 helicopters in India, most operated by airlines, corporate operators and offshore oil and gas support companies, few of which are expanding their fleets (or, consequently, their pilot corps). Most of the supply for crews there is satisfied with helicopter pilots leaving India's army, air force or navy. Complicating the market is the Indian government's standing threat to crack down on the operational and safety standards of helicopter operations in the wake of a string of offshore and other civil accidents. .

CAE/Agusta Center Prepares to Open

Rotorsim, the joint venture of CAE and AgustaWestland, plans to open the doors of its new training center in Sesto Calende, Italy in a few months.

The building for the facility adjacent to the Agusta Training school should be completed by September, officials of the joint program said, and classes there could begin by November.

The center is to receive its first CAE-built, full-motion simulator for the Agusta 109, this year. After checkout and certification, it should begin operations in early 2006. That simulator will be followed by one for the Agusta 109 LUH military light utility helicopter, versions of which have been sold to Italy, Malaysia, South Africa and Sweden. After that, the center is to receive an AB139 simulator.

Link to Upgrade Longbow Simulators

L-3 Communications's Link Simulation and Training division has won a $10.9-million contract to upgrade the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter program on all currently fielded and future U.S. Army Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT) Aviation Reconfigurable Manned Simulator suites.

Link already has contracts to build 11 AVCATT suites, and the Army has approved funding for a total of 23 such suites. All the suites are due for delivery by 2009.

The latest upgrade calls for Link to develop and integrate the AH-64D Longbow Lot 8 core avionics capability into the existing AVCATT system. That work is expected to wrap up by early 2007 and will be performed at Link's facilities in Arlington, Texas; Orlando, Fla; Binghamton, N.Y. and Broken Arrow, Okla.

Housed in two mobile, 53-ft. trailers, each AVCATT training suite consists of six reconfigurable simulators, a battle master control room and an after-action review theater. The simulators can be reconfigured to represent any combination of AH-64D Apache Longbow, AH-64A Apache, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, UH-60L Black Hawk and CH-47D Chinook platforms.

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