Farnborough Air Show

With Sea King’s landing sim, action is all in the pilot’s head

 - November 16, 2006, 9:08 AM

Canada’s new Sea King helicopter deck-landing simulator is a video gamer’s dream. Instead of a conventional cockpit with real switches and gauges, the device features a virtual-reality helmet the pilot wears. The only components that are real are the seat, cyclic and collective and pedals. Everything else, including a 360-degree inside and outside view, is replicated inside the pilot’s helmet in illusory detail.

The simulator was developed for the Canadian Forces by Defence R&D Canada (Hall 4 Stand C17A), a national organization comprised of six research centers spread throughout the country. It replicates a CH-124 Sea King landing on the deck of a Canadian patrol frigate, using fairly sophisticated software and computer hardware to get the job done. Not only must the simulator’s modeling software accurately replicate the helicopter’s flight dynamics, it also must recreate the pitching and rolling of the frigate on the open water and even the effect of the wind over its deck, explained DRDC senior scientist Dr. Lochlan Magee.

“We developed this simulator specifically for helicopter operations that require the pilot to look straight down or over his shoulder,” Magee said.

Two simulators have been built to date, one based at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, for training Canadian Sea King pilots and landing signals officers, and another at DRDC’s Toronto research center. The devices, which sit on a six-degree-of-motion base, were built using about $200,000 worth of commercial-off-the-shelf components and married to software that replicates a view of the instrument panel and outside world, Magee explained.

The organization and its commercial partner Atlantis Systems International are here at Farnborough International hoping to spur interest in the simulator among helicopter operators. Magee said the sales efforts are targeting other militaries and offshore oil, search-and-rescue, timber and long-line operators.

“Basically any pilot who needs to be able to look all around” while flying would be a candidate for the sim, Magee said. A good potential market, he added, is for Bell Model 206 autorotation training.

The 206 is in use with military and civil operators around the world, potentially indicating a ready market for the device, he said. But nobody is yet sure how the helicopter industry or other navies will respond to Canada’s unique simulator.