Those working in the world of pilot training will likely agree that the topic “flight task credit for training in a simulator without motion” has been discussed for some time, often with little movement in the ability to use such devices for flight task training credit. But we are beginning to see some movement, particularly with the FTD Level 7 qualification level now allowed by the FAA.
We are excited to see a growing acceptance of the use of non-motion based devices. Although we agree and understand that there remain a range of regulatory restrictions, we firmly believe that FTDs play an essential role in training centers and with the looming pilot demand, I am convinced that they will play a more significant role moving forward.
I want to start by highlighting the cons to training in an FTD. Or should I say 'con' as there is only the one... Motion!
The team here at L3 produce FTDs as well as the RealitySeven FFS, and ultimately the main physical difference between the two is that the FTD does not have a motion system. Apart from the motion system, the device can be configured to the same standard as a full flight simulator in regards to the software load, simulated hardware/avionics, visual system, and the IOS station.
However, without a quality motion system, the learning experience lacks the sensory feedback of the aircraft environment meaning that the transition from a simulator to aircraft may not be seamless. By incorporating motion, we allow pilots to learn kinaesthetically. They gain a feel for the aircraft and enhance their recognition of the changes physically felt while flying the aircraft which they may not fully identify from monitoring avionics and flight instruments in a non-motion based device. With that said, we should consider the larger percentage of the current training curriculum where motion doesn’t provide any additional value to the pilot and then ask ourselves how much of the future training curriculum can we shift to a fixed based device such as an FTD?
Rather than debating if motion is required, I think it is essential to focus on and discuss how we can utilize FTDs alongside FFSs. Putting motion aside, we can evidence an extensive list of benefits that an FTD can deliver to pilot training and training centers including reductions in infrastructure requirements, rate of re-training and operational costs.
One of the most recent milestones in the development of FTDs was the first FAA level 7 FTD coming into existence of which L3 provided the world’s very first FAA FTD level 7 device to an airline last year.
This change is the first step towards creating a training curriculum that is better suited to meet both current and future pilot training needs. It will help us to train the 30,000 new pilots required each year by offering more flexibility and reduced training costs to airlines and individuals. However, we still have a long way to go in order to fully realize the benefits a FTD can deliver with the biggest change being an updated training curriculum that offloads pilot training where a motion system is not required to alternative devices such as a FTD.
In order to maintain the high quality of training and regulatory requirements, but maximize the potential efficiencies in training, Full Flight Simulators will remain a vital tool. However, by extending the technology we use, we can create the flexibility required to contend with the future pressures of the aviation industry.
Patrick Davis, Director of Operations - Airline Training
L3 Commercial Aviation