Safety, Training

Full flight simulators may help tail rotor failure recoveries, Leonardo says

By Frank Wolfe | March 6, 2019
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AW609 Cockpit Simulator (Courtesy: Leonardo Helicopters)

ATLANTA--Leonardo is establishing Level D full flight simulators (FFS) for pilot training at the company's Philadelphia facility, which may help avert crashes associated with tail rotor failures, such as the fatal crash of an AW169 in Leicester last October, according to Leonardo.

Leonardo and CAE are developing an AW169 simulator cockpit to be made available and used in the CAE 3000 Series simulator, Leonardo said on March 6.

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"We are getting the experience coming from the field to be replicated in the dynamics of the helicopter on the simulator," Vittorio Della Bella, Leonardo's senior vice president of global customer support and training, said in an interview at Helicopter Association International's Heli-Expo 2019 trade show here.

Della Bella cited the ongoing investigation by the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in declining to comment further on what Leonardo has learned design-wise from the Leicester incident and what measures the company has put in place to increase the chances of AW169 recovery after a tail rotor failure.

Since the October incident, Leonardo has not responded to questions from Rotor & Wing International on what virtual engineering design features the AW169 incorporates to improve the helicopter's chances to recover from a tail rotor failure.

In the last several years, Leonardo has employed simulators to train pilots how to recover from tail rotor failures.

At a Rotorcraft Virtual Engineering conference at the University of Liverpool in November 2016, Riccardo Bianco-Mengotti, a flight mechanics engineer with Finmeccanica, now Leonardo, gave a keynote address on how Leonardo had used virtual engineering in the rotorcraft flight mechanics design process.

Bianco-Mengotti "introduced the triangle of advantages – safety, effectiveness and economy– that VE offers helicopter manufacturers," Gareth Padfield, emeritus professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool and the chairman of the conference, wrote last year in a paper for Aeronautical Journal. "A success story for the safety advantage was described relating to tail rotor failure, considered in the design of the AW169 helicopter, to ensure recovery was possible and to provide guidance on the recovery technique for pilots."

Beside the AW169 full flight simulator, Leonardo and CAE are also developing an AW609 full flight simulator, and both simulators--the AW169 and the AW609--are to enter service next year.

"Both the AW609 and AW169 simulators for the new [Leonardo} training academy in Philadelphia will be operated by Rotorsim, the joint venture owned equally by CAE and Leonardo," according to Leonardo.

"The AW609 simulator will deliver the most advanced level of training to all customers undertaking the AW609 Type Rating for their operations worldwide, as well as for recurrent training for rated pilots. Pilots in training will be able to practice all the required operational tasks and procedures for the AW609 tiltrotor in both normal and emergency conditions, both flight and mission related in all phases of flight," Leonardo said. "The AW609 FFS perfectly replicates the unique tiltrotor flight conditions, operating environments and the real aircraft behaviour with the possibility to also use Night Vision Goggles for night missions."

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