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