In today’s era, technology has improved a lot and every day’s chores have become a matter of data, processed by an electronic device that can be even operated by a seven-year old kid.
In fact, this dramatic improvement can be seen mostly in games and 3D movies. So realistic that one’s reaction is just like the real deal; the only difference is that this virtual world can be useful. One can teach a soldier what to expect and what to do in a combat environment or teach a pilot how to fly and react for all the abnormalities that one can encounter during all the flight stages; a really useful training aid indeed.
From the early years of 1900, men tried to re-create and replicate situations and environments. By building a frame similar to the original object being used and while other men operated levers to simulate movements, a really basic hand-driven simulator was born. This occurred as early as 1909 for the Antoinette aircraft. From then on, simulators not only got better, but bigger, realistic, comforter and to say the least, hugely expensive.
Simulators evolved as time progressed. From 3-degrees of freedom came the 6-degrees. The early 3-degrees were for pitch, roll and yaw with a limited payload. Later on, three more degrees were added so as to have the 6-degree simulator: up and down (heave), side to side (sway) and fore and aft (surge).
In the year 1960, computers were being used to operate these early simulators and by 1980 every simulator used one. Later on, even pc’s and laptops were able to run medium simulators for enthusiasts and amateurs.
There are various types of simulators. The widely used, low cost simulators are the FNPTs and FTDs. The Flight and Navigation Procedure Trainer is used for generic flight training but environmental effects must be provided and a comprehensive system is needed. The Flight Training Device is fitted for a specific aircraft flight training although one must provide the models for the flight, systems and environment. This still requires a high level of visual systems to be supplied.
The most well known and most expensive simulators out there are the Full Flight Simulators that duplicates everything from the aircraft cockpit and environment to all the 6-degree motions. There are various types of simulators and for the flight simulator training device to be authorised, a series of regulations must be met. These regulations can be seen in 14 CFR part 60 and for the Europeans these are defined in JAR-FSTD A and JAR-FSTD H; the latter for helicopter simulators.
Regarding the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), there are 3 levels of FNPT and 3 levels of FTD; Level 3 being for helicopter simulators only. There are also the FFS that range from A to D. Level A is for airplanes only with a motion system of at least 3-degrees. Level B is used as a small upgrade of Level A with 3-axis motion and higher aerodynamics. This can be used as a really basic helicopter simulator. Level C uses a 6-degree of motion of freedom and most use a field of vision of the outside world of at least 75 degrees for each pilot. Level D is the highest currently at hand which must include Level C requirements and the field of visions must be 150 degrees with a collimated display. Sounds and visual effects must be realistic as possible. Augusta Westland and CAE use these types of helicopter simulators.
In ATPL and CPL, one must have also an MCC, which is also normally performed on a simulator. It is not a rating but more like a course that must be done to work in a multi-crew environment. The Multi Crew Cooperation course helps to develop skills and communication between the PIC and the co-pilot so as to operate efficiently as possible.
Although a session in these high-end simulators is expensive, one can still experience a degree of simulation by purchasing Flight Simulator games that are found worldwide and almost for every aircraft and helicopter currently used. Invest in some pedals, throttle and stick and you have your own personal simulator just by your side!