Safety, Training

Full flight simulators may help tail rotor failure recoveries

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--simulators which may help avert crashes associated with tail rotor failures, such as the fatal crash of an AW169 in Leicester last October.

Such full flight simulators have a range of benefits beyond safety. At a press conference at Helicopter Association International's Heli-Expo 2019 here, Leonardo announced a new training academy in Philadelphia that will use the AW139 full flight simulators already at the company's Philadelphia facility and add AW169 and AW609 full flight simulators to respond to the growing market for them.


According to Leonardo, advanced training systems and services are aimed at maximizing mission effectiveness as well as safety and may help managing emergency situation and avert crashes associated with various potential causes. 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.

"We are getting the experience coming from the field to be replicated in the dynamics of the helicopter on the simulator, as is usually done for any aircraft through life cycle or after any product upgrade which needs to be reflected by simulation devices, especially Level D FFS," said Vittorio Della Bella, Leonardo's senior vice president of global customer support and training.

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."

Leonardo said that it has employed simulators in the last several yeas to train pilots how to fly their aircraft in an optimal manner, perform the mission effectively and safely and how to manage critical situations, including tail rotor failures.

Leonardo said that it is collaborating with the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to determine the cause of the Leicester crash.

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.

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."


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