Avions de Transport Régional has completely renovated its dedicated pilot training center at its Toulouse, France headquarters and is establishing new training sites in India and New Zealand. These are intended to complement its existing joint venture facilities with FlightSafety International in Miami, Florida, and Thales in Bangkok, Thailand.
Capt. Jean-Michel Bigarré, vice president of ATR training and flight operations, told Aviation International News that its flight crew courses have been restructured to get training “back to basics.” The available infrastructure now includes an updated “brain motion” FFT-X full flight training device to offer basic skills training at more affordable prices.
Each year ATR’s training organization runs approximately 100 courses for flight deck and cabin crews, as well as for maintenance personnel and ground staff. These range from basic one-day ground operation courses and three-day modules for flight attendants to four- to six-week type-rating courses for ATR 42/72 crews.
The minimum requirement for pilots on the type-rating courses is at least 200 flying hours’ experience in single-engine aircraft. Trainees must be able to write and communicate in English, with courses conducted in English or French, or in another language using an interpreter by special arrangement.
In addition to modern classrooms and fully equipped briefing stations, facilities include trainers for global navigation satellite systems, flight deck mock-ups (including evacuation procedures), virtual procedures trainers and a virtual-aircraft walkaround.
The new Toulouse center features two full-flight training (FFT) devices and three full-flight simulators (FFS). FFT 1 is approved for Cat I, type rating, IFR training and checks, while FFT2 (standard plus FFT-X) adds Cat II capability as well as more advanced checks. FFS 1 simulates the ATR 42-300 and ATR 72-200 series, while the FFS 2 and 3 units simulate all ATR aircraft.
The level-D FFTs represent 100 percent of aircraft systems, with very high quality visual and sound environments able to recreate feelings as close as possible to the aircraft’s cockpit. The FFT-X has a collimated visual display with an innovative seat cueing system providing cues in some specific areas of training, such as landing.
According to Bigarré, an experienced pilot training instructor, while modern aircraft increasingly enhance pilots’ ability to use computers that provide a higher level of assistance in flight, they have also resulted in a reduction of basic skills and knowledge. At the same time, airlines now want to maintain a high level of skills at a lower cost.
In Bigarré’s view, the past decade’s achievements in simulator development and improvements have focused increasingly on full-flight capability and less on training outcomes. This approach, he said, does not necessarily match the requirements of the airlines. “So, as an aircraft manufacturer, we decided to raise the level of training by initiating a radical departure built on recurrent educational updates for instructors, constant revisiting of training programs and the non-motion FFT-X,” he told AIN.
“Our basic aim is to support airlines in their day-to-day operations by offering the opportunity to train more without wasting money,” Bigarré added.
In support of ATR’s new approach to training, Bigarré cited a recent NASA/FAA behavior study that sought to discover whether motion is really necessary at all stages of flight training. The study, conducted with two groups of 20 experienced Boeing 747 pilots, highlighted the efficiency of a realistic fixed-based simulator for pilot training, and especially for recurrent training.
The investigation found that pilots are flying more strategically and use their “feeling” less, even in stressful situations, and that the “non-motion” group performances demonstrated that motion does not always help flying skills. The report concluded that with or without motion, training performances are similar. The “non-motion” group re-creates accurate motion reactions based on their experience, representing the “victory of back to basics.”
Bigarré said all ATR instructors and pilots are convinced of these findings, which has convinced the manufacturer to continue with this concept while continuing to challenge the study. The NASA experience demonstrated the efficiency of a very high-fidelity, fixed-base simulator– something ATR has developed as a tool for high-quality training.
Operators, instructors and authorities have been involved in the development of the FFT-X upgrade to a new generation “brain motion” training device. “Pilots who evaluated the certified FFT-X unanimously concluded that their ‘brain motion’ behavior regarding sounds, vibrations, visual and seat cueing is similar to that which they experience in an aircraft.”
Despite some teething troubles, ATR has achieved its targets. “Training quality is really there and costs have decreased substantially,” Bigarré concluded.