Flight simulation training started during the First World War as a means of training pilots the art of shooting a moving target from the cockpit. In the current century, simulation training entails a standard procedure undertaken bay majority of the major airlines.
Simulators utilize a wide screen that has a motion platform of six degrees of freedom that is used to maneuver images in order to imitate the actual flight situation. Flight simulation has transformed into a vital component in aerospace and civil aviation industry. Flight simulation plays a significant role in training and operations of major airlines. Major airlines are increasingly adopting simulator training due cost-effectiveness and increased safety in comparison to live training.
The operation of modern military and civilian aircraft requires extremely high levels of knowledge and skills. The flight simulator has proved to have the potentiality to have a fundamental impact to the task of air crew training at three levels which are skill maintenance, skill development and skill assessment. Flight simulation also has a training role in the field of astronautics. From the beginning of a manned space program, it was determined that no other way of astronaut training was available other than flight simulation.
Hence, the United States Aeronautics and Space Administration, abbreviated as NASA, in partnership with the simulator manufacturers began a far-reaching and grand program of developing training devices (Allerton, 2009). Simulation refers to the act of aping some situational behavior or process through utilizing an analogous object.
The rationale behind the simulation of major airlines is reports of major accidents, which necessitated a better understanding of microburst and wind-shear. For this reasons, models of both microburst and wind-shear are included in flight training programs. From this, it is clear that flight simulation plays a crucial role of enhancing flight safety.
This is through reduction of accidents related to wind-shear since the introduction of obligatory training by use of flight simulators. Simulation of hazardous flight conditions such as heavy rain and icing has also contributed to reduction of accidents (Mealing, 1998).Flight simulation is particularly of interest because it provides a significantly reduced cost and increased effectiveness of training compared to live training.
Other aviation sectors that have applied flight simulation technology include aircraft training technicians who can practice removal, installation and fault-finding of equipment via simulation. Cabin simulators have also proved valuable during cabin crew training. Military simulators provide important training opportunities for mission crew.
This is especially applicable in resource management training as well as mission rehearsal training (Allerton, 2009). This purpose of this research is to investigate simulation of major airlines and the benefits of flight simulation. It is evident that flight simulation has a great impact in aerospace and the civilian aviation.
Currently, a substantial amount of military and civil flight crew training is carried out in flight simulators that utilize computers in creating the flight illusion. Majority of the airborne activities that directed flight training has been substituted with training by sue of flight simulators. Flight simulation has improved flight quality and totally transformed methods of flight training as well as reducing the risks associated with flight training.
According to Allerton (2009), flight simulators have become widely accepted as the key training devices in various major airlines. Training by use of flight simulators has more advantages compared to live training. First of all, flight simulation is cost-effective. Operation, Aircraft capital and maintenance cost have proved to be extremely high. Hence, to utilize an actual aeroplane for training purposed may lead to incurring of additional costs. For instance, training in emergency procedures like aborting take-off may mean additional replacement and maintenance costs.
In military aviation, training involving firing of directed missiles and other armaments is extremely costly, and it may also necessitates imposing of rigid restrictions. Simulation of major airlines can therefore lead to significant cost reductions contrary to the use of live training. Allerton (2009) further advances that aviation is a field that is fortified by safety. The key purpose of aviation authorities is to make sure that all aircraft operations including flight training are safe. In the 1970s, airlines used to train using actual aircraft, takeoffs, practicing circuits and landings.
Unfortunately, this form of training was characterized by numerous training accidents. One of the major achievements of training by use of flight simulation is the reduction of training accidents. A major airline pilot is required to go through two days of checking and training after a period of six months.
This is a remarkable transition from the 1960s and 70s, where there would have been universals reluctance or training and license renewal. The transition has been substantially contributed by technological advancements in visual systems, modeling as well as motion systems. Flight simulation is widely accepted by operators, pilots, manufacturers, regulatory authorities and unions.
Nowadays, the first time a pilot flies an aircraft is with passengers paying a fee on a scheduled flight. There is careful monitoring of a pilot by a training program. This shows the global acceptance and advances of simulation technology in major airlines (Ennis, California State University and Beach, 2009).
A further aspect of flight safety is justified by statistics concerning air accidents. After an accident, airline sand regulatory authorities are required to study the report from investigators of the accident and incorporate similar situations in flight simulation training programs. This enable flight crews to gain awareness of similar situations that may result to accidents.
Through a flight simulator, pilots are able to experience a wide spectrum of flight conditions. A good example is the crew of the Appollo13 mission which owed its success in dealing with malfunctions incurred in the course of the mission to a long time period spent in a simulator, practicing several flight situations that may be encountered (Ennis, et al., 2009).
Though a majority of flight simulation in major airlines is utilized for pilot training, simulation also plays a key role in aircraft design. The chief design effort witnessed in the modern military or civil aircraft is in the implementation of systems instead of developing engines or the airframe. Before the 1980s, validation or testing of aircraft systems was conducted in the course of flight experiments.
However, finding a fault in design at this stage of the life cycle of the system proved to be extremely costly. During the development of automatic flight control systems, a design error may lead to jeopardizing of the safety of experimental aircraft. If the mentioned developments were carried out in a flight simulator, safety would not be compromised.
Moreover, large amount of information can be acquired as trails can easily be repeated and corrected (Mealing, 1998). Mealing (1998) further postulates that despite the fact that major airlines as well as military organizations have laid emphasis on pilot training, recent focus has shifted to maintenance training.
Before the mid 1990s, a wide section of maintenance training was undertaken with the aid of either actual aircraft equipment or fabricated imitations that could allow maintenance engineers to learn about the substitution of faulty items with novel ones. Such type of training could be very costly it an aircraft is taken out of service or if errors are made with the actual equipment.
The reductions of such cost could only be achieved through synthetic aid, which is the use of flight simulation. There are various types of simulators employed in major airlines. The fist type is the PC based simulators. The PC is starting to gain popularity as a means pilot training through simulation. Introductory training may necessitate the use of tutorial with instructions presented in computers.
Typically, acquaintance with performance, aircraft mechanics, maintenance and instrumentation is undertaken with mechanics, pilots, air-traffic controllers and flight crews (Stevens and Lewis, 2003). The other types of simulators are the instrument only simulators. Despite the fact that these types of simulators have a basic appearance, instrument only simulators have proved to be highly effective with the utilization of pilot training using small aircraft. In this case, it is possible to gain familiarity within a low visibility navigation and flight. Examples of applicable typical scenarios used for training are correction and Dutch Roll recognition which help pilots to determine problems with the use of solely instrument cues (Allerton, 2009).
According to Steven and Lewis (2003), fixed simulators are the other types of simulators, which have graphical potentialities but lack motion. These simulators are the same as instrument only simulators but differ in the fact that they exert more control and functional potentialities. There is a wide use of fixed simulators following their cost-effectiveness and smaller size compared to full-flight simulators. The final types of simulators are the full-flight simulators. These simulator types have motion platforms that move with the aim of providing physical sensations of flight. Moreover, they are highly functional and aircraft-specific.
They have many circuit breakers and real pilot seats. The fundamental task of simulation of major airlines is modeling of dynamic behavior of an aero plane regardless of whether it is a generic model or an existing type of plane. A simulator comprises of various components that aid in achieving its goal. The initial part of a simulator is a model representing the simulated system. In relation to flight simulation, a model is the mathematical term describing an aircraft as well as its environment imitated in a precise manner. The device through which the model is implemented is the second element of a simulator.
Nowadays, this element is the digital computer with an operating system required for real-time operations (Siu and University of Toronto (Canada), 2008). According to Siu (2008), one of the important characteristics of a simulator is that it has to have a high specificity. This is necessary so that the user can be convinced that the simulator is in fact, a real situation.
Moreover, this facilitates the training experience and lures the brain into reflexive reactions following appropriate stimulation. To increase the effectiveness of training, all the sensory inputs should be accurate and correctly times. This is because even the most minimal mistakes could lead to breaking of the illusion, resulting to confusion.
All the control interfaces like air data computers and circuit breakers that are present in an actual aircraft should be fully operational in a simulator so as to complete the illusion. The other component of a flight simulator is the host computer, where processing of all the required outputs and inputs takes place. Despite the fact that the host computers vary in make, the architecture involved is similar. Host computer can either be multiple or single processor systems. The method of communication is Direct Memory Access (DMA) as well as control satellite computers that function in providing vision, motion, sound as well as instructor’s facilities.
Additionally, the host computer functions in driving all the peripherals designed for general purpose and original components of the aircraft (Stevens, 2003).All the scenarios on a training simulator are regulated and selected by a training instructor who is highly qualified. The instructor sits behind the training pilots within the simulator, at a position where modification of training conditions can be achieved. The operation of environment, scenarios and malfunctions elections take place via a customer user interface. This is typically through a control page that is touch screen enabled
The required instructor requests are sent to the host through the Instructor Operating Station, which then transfers them into the simulator output (Ennis, et al., 2009). All the sounds that are audible in the cockpit are reproduced by the sound simulation system.
Advanced sound systems are able of reproducing sounds originating from the environment as well as those emanating from the aircraft systems. The range of sound system is low fidelity which utilizes filtered, random noise to average and high sound quality systems. Sounds generated synthetically originate from recording of specific sound sources at a high quality. The sounds are in synchrony with aircraft conditions and controls (Allerton, 2009).
Ennis, at al., (2009) postulated the two methods that are usually used to generate cockpit sounds. The first method that is obvious is recording of the actual sounds of the aircraft by use of high quality sound recording system that is placed in the flight deck or cockpit. This is typically achieved by suspending a microphone from the cabin roof.
One demerit of this method lies in the number of recordings necessary to cover all flight conditions. The alternative means that is commonly used is analyzing the source of each sound followed by generation of the appropriate waveform. Modern simulators integrate some of the best visual systems available in the market with computers that have the capability of producing several calculations per second.
This is to enable a real-time presentation of visual shadows in real time, motion blur as well as sun glare effects. Additionally, advanced systems are used to develop depth simulation and cues that have low visibility in fog through the use of either white or blue color for objects that are distant.
They further lay emphasis on conditions of lighting as well as raindrops appearing on the windscreen due to simulation by altering the image. A good example of such a system is the system used for training pilots for the novel Boeing 777 aircraft (Mealing, 1998).A number of channels of real-time images visible from the pilot’s eye are provided by the visual system. A database object is loaded into the visual system initially.
This database may contain airfields, fields, lakes, roads, vehicles, coastlines, trees, buildings and forests. There are various standards that are available to generate the mentioned entities. The most widely used format however, is Open Flight. There is a reduction of each object into textured and colored polygons that are defined in the coordinate system within the database.
It is common for the objects to be aligned in a geometrical manner so that different detail levels are displayed in accordance to the object distance (Stevens, 2003). During manipulation of the aircraft, the pilot positions the eye by orienting it in comparison to motion equations
. A delay is experienced between acquiring a novel eye position and the actual seeing of the projected image depending on the imaging system. This delay is often called visual latency, which should be kept to a minimum but has the potential of extending to three or four times. The worst case allowable latency that is generally accepted is a value of 100ms.
The most commonly quoted figures for modern flight simulators are 20 to 50 ms (Siu, 2008).The visual quality system relies very much on the qualities of the underlying graphics engine. A graphics card is bounded in relation to the draw rate to develop polygons and the fill rate for texturing the polygons. Following the addition of more scene detail, the frame rate may reduce below the minimum value of a specific simulator.
Similarly, reducing of the polygon count to increase the rendering rate leads to reduction of the scene detail into an acceptable level (Stevens, 2003).The other element that is worth noting is the motion system, which provides approximations of real time to the revolving acceleration and the force vector associated with the position of the pilot in the simulated aircraft.
It is always impossible to generate the complete motion of an aircraft due to mechanical complications. Hence, a method called acceleration onset cueing is used to provide the required sensations to the pilot. The initial onset of acceleration is developed by a motion platform known as a kicker.
Civil aviation trainers with high specification utilize six degrees of freedom leading to slight vibration imitation through to rigid manipulation (Ennis, et al., 2009).It is clear that a majority of the simulators are fully functional is every aspect but do not have a motion platform. This is especially the case for military simulators. Motion platforms are essentially integrated with the visual system that provides a general effect at the high end. This implies that simulators that have low-quality visuals need to utilize motion platforms since their role of training is purely instrumental. Generally, motion systems are training devices that are highly effective.
A pilot that is acquainted to motion cues would react naturally to effects like turbulence unknowingly. This is because the brain is capable of assessing and acting on the motion feedback subconsciously prior to registering a displacement visually (Mealing, 1998).Safety is one of the import considerations for motion platform. It is possible for the cabin to fall many meters under active control due to system failure thereby causing injury and damage to the occupants.
Unexpected motion can be detected by the use of extensive monitoring and redundant computer systems. This would result to shutting down of the hydraulic system within a few milliseconds in order to avoid injury caused by any unexpected motion. The plat form being four to five meters off the ground is one other aspect of safety. The hydraulic system should lower the platform to its lowest point in case of a fire emergency in order to enable the instructor and flight crew to escape through ladders (Allerton, 2009).
There are different areas of application of flight simulation in major airlines. When used for training purposes, flight simulations have proved to reduce the training costs as compared to using real equipment. For research purposes, flight simulation is the only way that can be used for testing novel equipment without compromising the user’s safety. Various human and machine errors can be produced without compromising the safety of aviation by using simulation. It is therefore possible to research on the effects of novel features, procedures or equipment on the aviation systems. In relation to training, necessary operation skills can be gained by the flight skills without having negative effects on other aircraft (Siu, 2008).
A simulation is defined as a computer model that emulates a real-life situation. As presented in the discussion, it is evident that there is an increasing tendency of major airlines to employ simulation for training purposes. In addition to increasing the level of training, the scope of simulation is also increasing in major airlines. A good example is the military training which incorporates different types of simulators so as to present diverse scenarios for training. Major airlines are also integrating cockpit flight training with enhancing skills in crew training as the main theme.
A simulation model is beneficial in determining the sensitivity of a system to operating condition changes. Moreover, computer simulation allows finding of concrete solutions to specific problems without changing the actual physical system. For instance, solutions to various flight accidents that can result due to different situation can be eliminated with the aid of flight simulators.
Simulation of major airlines is a cheap alternative because it presents an alternative imitation of what could occur if novel equipment were purchased. Hence, new flight equipment can be effectively tested by use of simulation or replicas of the equipment.Conclusively, it is evident that simulators are a requirement in the modern training environment.
The actual training is more expensive compared to simulation training in terms of operating costs, aviation aspect of equipment and traffic congestion. Moreover, actual training is inefficient and extremely expensive when considering flight operating restrictions. A wise spectrum of training possibilities is provided through the use of simulators in the training process.
Allerton, D. (2009). Principles of Flight Simulation. John Wiley and Sons
Ennis, E. A., California State University, & Beach, L. (2009). The evolution of simulation in aviation flight training. ProQuest
Mealing, S. (1998). The art and science of computer animation. Intellect Books.
Stevens, B. L., & Lewis, F. L. (2003). Aircraft control and simulation (2nd Ed). Wiley-IEEE
Siu, P., & University of Toronto (Canada) (2008). Flight control design and simulation for aggressive nonlinear maneuvering. ProQuest