Simulator Standards Harmonization With Pilot Needs In Mind

By By Charlotte Adams | March 1, 2010
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The CAE 3000 Series helicopter mission trainer features a direct-projection dome with 210 x 75-degree field of view, Tropos-6000 visual system and cockpit vibration platform. Photo courtesy CAE.

Qualifying a helicopter simulator internationally can be a bit of a headache. National regulators have different standards and it can be difficult to map between them. The task extends the time and cost of fielding new products.ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, is working on a solution to these problems.

It’s taking a practical approach, trying to match simulator features to tasks that pilots are actually required to perform to obtain different levels of certification, such as a private pilot license, air transport pilot license, commercial pilot license, instrument rating, type ratings and recurrent training.


While the draft standard isn’t expected to be submitted until year-end, if all goes according to current plans, the new document will also mark a step up in requirements at the lower end of the spectrum.

The Technical Group of the Helicopter-International Working Group (H-IWG) is looking at 114 different tasks, said Stéphane Clément, co-chair of the Technical Group and director of regulatory affairs for CAE. In addition to the tasks there are three levels of fidelity—generic, representative and specific—and 14 different simulation features, such as visuals, motion, vibration and representation of aerodynamics. Correlating all of these items is difficult and involves what insiders dub the “matrix from hell.”

Clément provided Rotor & Wing a snapshot of the committee’s work, which is, of course, subject to change. Currently, however, simulators are divided into five types, described generically:

• Type V—the top level, with potential for Zero Flight Time;

• Type IV—more type-specific, inter- mediate-level trainers, but includes motion;

• Type III—similar to Type IV, but motion is not required;

• Type II—partial VFR trainers, associated with private pilot and commercial pilot licenses; and

• Type I—basic instrument trainers.

If the current thinking holds, all five types will require a visual system although not of identical quality. Some level of vibration capability is also likely to be required in all types, as it is such an important cue. Basic ATC simulation—mostly hearing other traffic—is likely for all types, as well.

One example shows how complex the challenge is. Take a basic task: transition from hover to forward flight. A trainer capable of simulating this action would require a vibration system to give the pilot the feeling of the rotor effects in transition. Visuals would be important, as well, because although the pilot lowers the nose and is looking downward, he also needs to look up to scan for other traffic.

The standards group also would consider what type of pilot approval the task is being performed for. If it’s for a type rating, the transition-from-hover task would require a trainer with a relatively high level of fidelity for visuals, vibration, sound, motion, engines, aircraft systems and flight controls.

Simulation of the navigation system would be less important. If the task is being performed for a private pilot’s license, less fidelity would be required because the student is learning to fly rather than learning to fly a specific aircraft type.

Participants in the ICAO process include regulators, helicopter manufacturers and helicopter operators, as well as training organizations. While the views of the members are converging, much remains to be done. So stay tuned for further developments in this important area. (From March 2010 Rotorcraft Report)

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