Written by Adrienne Wiesner / Volarent Aerospace
Does your flight school provide what the aviation industry needs? With the demand for air travel continuing to increase with modern reliable technology, so does the need for pilots. The number of pilots has been decreasing over the years and the vast majority are soon approaching retirement age. It has become more crucial than ever to attract individuals to the industry and swiftly move them through the program to get them to the regional level. For these reasons flight simulation is playing even more of a vital role in flight schools. Students and experienced pilots are able to learn how to operate new equipment in a shorter amount of time, at a smaller cost and without compromising their decision-making skills in the air. Here are the top 10 reasons why every flight school should include a simulator in its training syllabus.
Flight simulation gives you the ability to complete training regardless of weather conditions and aircraft availability.
Simulators offer customized options for primary students and more advanced licensed students. Modern software provides realism that smoothly transitions the student into the aircraft.
Repetition builds muscle memory
Training procedures can be repeated several times in one training session without any ill consequences. Students are given the ability to practice until they are confident.
Students can practice several emergency procedures from failed equipment to extreme weather conditions in a low-stress environment.
Students can be exposed to unique and difficult situations with no risk. Mistakes can be made without paying the ultimate cost.
Control of the flight environment
Students are given the opportunity to fly anywhere in the world from over water to mountainous terrain under all types of weather conditions including rain, snow, ice and wind.
Advanced flight students are able to maintain their IFR currency, navigation skills, and emergency and normal operating procedures.
More experience and knowledge learned in a smaller amount of time. Flight simulators give you the ability to stop and start a scenario instantaneously.
Operating cost is kept to a minimum
Simulators don’t come with the same costs as airplanes do, i.e. fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
Flight training fees add up quickly when it comes to aircraft maintenance, fuel, insurance and instruction. Several simulated training hours can now be credited towards the required total time required by the FAA, which will reduce the overall cost.
These are just some of the reasons why simulation plays a vital role in a flight training program. It may be time to take a good look at what your flight school has to offer.
The dawn of flight training awakened more than pilots, instructors, and airplanes. It also brought to light a need for ground trainers that would enable the safe and effective practice of particular procedures. Industry has responded, and aviation ground trainers have evolved significantly over the years, along with their aerial counterparts. The regulatory structure for aviation ground trainers has evolved as well. At present, the FAA assigns these devices into three main categories: flight simulators, flight training devices, and aviation training devices. From airline training and corporate flying to the private pilot in general aviation aircraft, almost every pilot will eventually use at least one of these devices to practice and improve pilot skills or to help transition to another aircraft. As most pilots will attest, flight simulation of any variety is often the quickest route for learning to fly.
Today’s Training Devices
Full Flight Simulators (FFS)*:
The more capable (and most expensive) aviation training devices fall in to this category. FFSs must include motion and visual capability, and it is possible to earn a type rating (e.g., MD-80, B-737-800, BE-500) in the more sophisticated simulators without flying the actual aircraft. All levels of FFSs are objectively evaluated against airplane specific validation data (typically aircraft flight test data) to ensure that the FFS’s aerodynamics, flight controls characteristics, and ground handling characteristics represent a specific make, model, and series of aircraft. A type rating is required for operating aircraft that are turbo jet powered or over 12,500 pounds. maximum certified takeoff weight. Many FAA-approved Part 142 schools use simulators to train professional pilots for type ratings and to deliver the recurrency training required by regulation and insurance companies.
Flight training Devices (FTD)*:
These devices are designed to represent a specific aircraft configuration and, depending upon the FTD’s qualification level, may include an enclosed cockpit and realistic visual references. They are not always motion capable, but are sophisticated enough to provide training in preparation for commercial and airline transport pilot certificates, as well as other ratings. FTDs are extremely popular with aviation-oriented universities and colleges. The airline industry also uses these devices extensively to train new hires or provide for upgrades (First Officer to Captain) and transition training (e.g., B-737 to B-747 aircraft), or for recurrency training.
*Note: Full Flight Simulators and FTDs (collectively called Flight Simulation Training Devices – FSTDs) come under the guidance, evaluation and approval of the FAA National Simulator Program in Atlanta and are regulated under 14 CFR part 60.
Aviation Training Devices (ATD)*:
ATDs are by far the most common option for general aviation flight training, and GA has benefited greatly from the development of these very capable devices. Many Part 141 and Part 61 flight schools use these devices to train students in preparation for private, multi-engine, instrument, and commercial certificates. The FAA’s General Aviation and Commercial Division (AFS-800) manages the evaluation and approval of ATDs, which are categorized into basic and advanced training devices. To do so, AFS-800 uses the requirements for performance and capability specified in Advisory Circular (AC) 61-136, which was published in July 2008. This document describes how the FAA approves ATDs, along with providing a summary of how pilots may use these devices. Let’s take a look.
Basic Aircraft Training Device (BATD)*:
A BATD generally has hardware and software features that allow the FAA to authorize it for certain training and proficiency credits. These credits include:
• Instrument rating - maximum of 10 hours under 14 CFR section 61.65(i) or 14 CFR part 141, appendix C
• Instrument Proficiency Check - per FAA-S8081-4E (circle-to-land not authorized)
• Use in accomplishing instrument recency of experience requirements of 14 CFR section 61.57(c)(2)
• Not more than 2.5 hours of training under 14 CFR section 61.109(k)(1) on introduction to operation of flight instruments (except as limited by 14 CFR part 141 appendices)
Advanced Aircraft Training Device (AATD)*:
An AATD must meet BATD-approval criteria, but it must also incorporate additional features and systems fidelity that provide ergonomics representative of a category and class of aircraft flight deck. The AATD does not need to replicate a specific aircraft make and model, although many devices do. These features allow the FAA to authorize an AATD for the following training and proficiency credits.
• Private pilot certificate - maximum of 2.5 hours
• Instrument rating - maximum of 20 hours
• Instrument Proficiency Check - per FAA-S8081-4E (circle-to-land not authorized) • Commercial pilot certificate - maximum of 50 hours
• Airline Transport Pilot certificate - maximum of 25 hours
• 14 CFR part 141 as limited by the applicable appendices, or under a special curriculum approved under 14 CFR section 141.57 A quick way to remember the difference between basic and advanced is that the advanced version must be more representative of the aircraft cockpit design. It must also include a GPS and autopilot configuration.
Real Training, Real Learning
If you are looking for a flight school, it might be worth your while to consider a flight school that has an FAA-approved aviation training device. Such a school will have an FAA letter of authorization (LOA) that accompanies the device. The FAA only allows credit for 2.5 hours towards the certification minimum required for private pilot certification, but there is no prohibition on additional use of these devices in training. On the contrary! According to recent FAA records, the national average to complete the private pilot certificate is approximately 75 hours of flight time. Some flight schools use FTDs and ATDs to practice the maneuvers and procedures in advance of the flight training portion of their curriculum. Doing so allows students to graduate sooner with less total flight time needed to complete their training. Here’s the bottom line: Even if you can’t log every hour spent in an ATD to count toward your certificate or rating, training in an ATD can maximize your training time and minimize the money you spend by enabling you to learn basic procedures in the ATD, and then master them in the actual aircraft. Another advantage is the ability to train when the weather is not cooperating or if an aircraft is not available. This advantage prevents undesirable breaks that can hamper your ability to practice and retain certain skills. Teaching is also much more productive in an ATD, where distractions such as noise and turbulence can be kept to a minimum. The ability to hit the pause button and then explain or review a certain training skill on the spot is another huge advantage. Last but not least, ATDs permit practice of emergencies and other demanding skills with a level of safety that might not be possible in actual aircraft. Using aviation training devices will save time, money, and the environment, and allow everyone to fly more safely.
Marcel Bernard is an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector and the Aviation Training Device Manager with the General Aviation and Commercial Division in Washington, D.C. Marcel currently holds an ATP and Flight Instructor certificate with Multi-Engine and Instrument privileges. His experience includes managing an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school along with having conducted more than 20,000 hours of flight instruction.
Full Flight Simulator (FFS) − A replica of a specific type or make, model, and series aircraft cockpit. This includes the assemblage of equipment and computer programs necessary to represent aircraft operations in ground and flight conditions, a visual system providing an out-of-the-cockpit view, a system that provides cues at least equivalent to those of a three-degree-of-freedom motion system, and the full range of capabilities of the systems installed in the device as described in 14 CFR part 60 and the Qualification Performance Standards (QPS) for a specific FFS qualification level.
Flight Training Device (FTD) − A replica of aircraft instruments, equipment, panels, and controls in an open flight deck area or an enclosed aircraft cockpit. It includes the equipment and computer programs necessary to represent aircraft (or set of aircraft) operations in ground and flight conditions having the full range of capabilities of the systems installed in the device as described in 14 CFR part 60 and the Qualification Performance Standard (QPS) for a specific FTD qualification level.
Aviation Training Device (ATD) − A replica of aircraft instruments, equipment, panels, and controls in an open flight deck area or an enclosed aircraft cockpit. It includes the equipment and computer programs necessary to represent aircraft (or set of aircraft) operations in ground and flight conditions having the full range of capabilities of the systems installed in the device as described in AC 61-136 for a specific Basic or Advanced qualification level.
The FAA has many flight simulator certification types, and choosing which one is right for you can be a challenge. Spend too much, and you end up with a simulator that you can’t utilize. Spend too little, and you end up with a simulator that doesn’t do what you require. In this article, we will break down the differences by category for you, so that you can choose which simulator certification type meets the requirements of your flight school or training facility. Volarent offers a wide variety of both FTD and ATD simulators, so you’ll find a Volarent simulator for any need you may have. Regardless of when you plan on purchasing a simulator, it is never too early to consider your needs. Simulators are quickly becoming a necessity for flight schools now more than ever.
Let’s start with the FTD, or Flight Training Device. The FTD is broken down into four categories, the Level 4, 5, 6, and 7. The FTD Level 4 is similar to the Cockpit Procedures Trainer (CPT), that is, devices that are used to practice basic cockpit procedures such as processing emergency checklists and general cockpit familiarization. The aerodynamic model is usually more generic in this model. This level does not technically require an aerodynamic model, but accurate systems modeling is required. Next, we have Level 5. This level requires aerodynamic programming and systems modeling, but it may represent a family of aircraft rather than one specific type of aircraft model. In the FTD Level 6, Aircraft-model-specific aerodynamic programming, control feel, and a physical cockpit are required. From this point on, the simulators become highly realistic and the price increases dramatically. The FTD Level 7 is a model specific certification, used for helicopters only. All applicable aerodynamics, flight controls, and systems must be modeled. A vibration system must also be supplied, and a visual system is required at this level. It is important to note that many features you see from FTD 4-7 may be included at any level regardless of the legal requirement. That is to say, a visual system comes standard with every Volarent AATD model, despite the absence of an FAA requirement. The entire line of FTD products is a much higher level of realism and is generally much more expensive. Typically, universities and commercial training centers use the FTD for training.
The ATD (Aviation Training Device) category of flight simulators is broken down into the AATD and the BATD. The BATD is the Basic Aviation Training Device and provides an adequate training platform and design for both procedural and operational performance tasks specific to the ground and flight training requirements for Private Pilot Certificate and instrument ratings per Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Next, the AATD, or Advanced Aviation Training Device, provides an adequate training platform for both procedural and operational performance tasks specific to the ground and flight training requirements for Private Pilot Certificates, instrument ratings, Commercial Pilot Certificates, Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificates, and Flight Instructor certificates. Generally speaking, the AATD is the most popular among flight schools and is commonly the go-to option for small to mid-range facilities. While the ATD is considered to be a more basic system then the FTD, it is a better value for flight schools that have fewer students or don’t require more technologically advanced configurations.
The other remaining categories are the FFS and EASA. The FFS, or Full Flight Simulators, is the most advanced category for flight simulation. This category is broken up into four categories, Level A, B, C, and D. Typically, these simulators cost millions of dollars and are targeted at airlines and airline training facilities. Level A is a motion system with at least three degrees of freedom. This category is reserved for airplanes only. Level B is a three-axis motion system and a higher-fidelity aerodynamic model than Level A. The lowest level of helicopter flight simulator is Level B. Level C is a motion platform with six degrees of freedom, also a lower transport delay (latency) over levels A or B. The visual system must have an outside-world horizontal field of view at least 75 degrees for each pilot. Finally, Level D is the king of simulators. This is the highest level of FFS qualification available. All the previous requirements for Level C are required, and the motion platform must have all six degrees of freedom, and the visual system must have an outside-world horizontal field of view at least 150 degrees, with a collimated (distant focus) display. Realistic sounds in the cockpit are required, as well as a number of special motion and visual effects. This simulator category is used for professional airlines to train in jet aircraft generally. The other category we mentioned, EASA, is the European Aviation Safety Agency. This agency is the governing body in the European Union for flight simulation certification. The EASA works slightly differently, with FNPT, FTD, and FFS levels, but not ATD. Most Volarent Simulators are dually qualified for an EASA certification as well. Generally, FFS simulators are uncommon for general aviation aircraft. These simulators are chiefly aimed towards large universities, airlines, and airline training facilities.
The AATD is generally best for the majority of flight schools. The FTD classification is recommended to universities, commercial training centers, or smaller airlines. The FTD is generally more cost effective for commercial training centers then the FFS for training. The FAA has also recently announced new regulatory changes that allows any instrument rated pilot to be able to use a flight simulator to maintain instrument currency among many other changes. These regulatory advantages are available to anyone with an AATD-equipped simulator or above, which would include the FTD category. Ultimately, the ATD is below the FTD, but it is advantageous to anyone on a budget looking for an effective and trusted training solution. Keep in mind, that specific flight school types (Part 135, 141, 61, and 121 flight schools) are able to do different things with their simulators regardless of the certification type. It is advised to speak with your flight school’s FAA primary inspector before purchasing a simulator.
So, you are now hopefully more familiar with the various FAA forms of flight simulator certification. Volarent offers both FTD and ATD solutions, regardless of what you decide works best for you. Contact your local Volarent Sales Representative, and they’ll know exactly what certification types go with each aircraft. Volarent Simulators are accurate, enclosed systems, and cost-effective training solutions. No matter what you choose, we know you’ll be satisfied with the product and customer support. Volarent is focused on providing the highest quality solution at any price.
Recently, the FAA announced new regulation changes that will accomplish many exciting things for pilots and flight simulator owners. These changes will save over $110 million over the next five years, and bring many advantages from the current system.
All these changes help to reduce the cost of flight training and simplify many aspects of training for pilots. Also, the regulatory updates make owning a flight simulator more important than ever, as flight schools will now receive even more benefit and cost savings from their devices. The extensive changes to "Part 61" will be implemented between July 27 and December 24, 2018, and will begin to leverage advances in avionics, aircraft equipment, flight simulators, and flight training equipment.
In addition to the tremendous short-term value of these changes, the FAA has also made it clear that they will adapt and accept modern technology for flight training as it improves. The most significant change, allowing pilots to use aviation training devices for currency, is valued at over a $76 million cost saving. This particular regulatory change takes effect on November 26, and any combination of ATD will be eligible to accomplish the flight experience required for receiving currency. In addition to all these changes, sport pilot instructors will be permitted to gain necessary flight hours in an ATD flight simulator to obtain endorsement required to teach instrument skills.
Sources; AOPA, FAA, eCFR