By next year, the Helicopter-International Working Group (H-IWG) plans to submit to ICAO a framework for a set of international criteria for the classification and qualification of flight simulation training devices (FSTD).
The group’s effort to create an international standard is the “largest effort of its sort in the industry,” according to Brian Hampson, vice chair of the working group and president of Training Technology International. “Nothing is comparable,” he said. The work, which began in 2006, will eventually total 80,000 man-hours and cost between $5 million and $8 million.
The group formed in 2006 and began meeting the following year in response to growth within the helicopter industry, growing interest in FSTDs, new regulations about the use of FSTDs and new simulation technologies. It also formed to “harmonize” the growing number of international regulations. “It was getting too difficult to deal with so many national regulations,” explained Stéphane Clément, leader of CAE’s aviation industry regulations chief technology office and a member of H-IWG. “The different regulations were not well aligned, not well harmonized.”
The 35-member group is made up of various industry representatives, including OEMs and operators, service clients, FSTD manufacturers, training companies, regulators and industry specialists. The group itself is divided into two subgroups: training and technical. The training group is tasked with defining the requirements needed to teach people how to fly and the FSTD levels needed, while the technical group is tasked with defining the technical requirements of the devices.
The goal of the two groups is to define what the requirements will be, as opposed to how manufacturers, operators and regulators will meet those requirements. In this way, the document will never become out of date as technology and expectations change.
“Technology has changed so much in the past few decades that some people have become spoiled and seek realism,” Clément said. “They are used to video games, and they forget they are training. The expectations are such that they’re not expecting minimum requirements.”
The framework will stress “bare minimums” but will be flexible enough to permit manufacturers to go above and beyond, said Matt Jennings, a member of the training group and principal consultant of UK-based Aviation Safety Consulting. “We’re going to define the result, not how it will be achieved,” he said. “That’s a significant departure from current frameworks.”
If approved, the framework will have a number of benefits, including: international harmonization; standard training definitions driven by training needs, as opposed to national regulations; a more consistent approach to FSTD development by FSTD manufacturers; reduction in the burdens of stakeholders; cost reductions; improved quality worldwide; more flexibility; increased environmental benefits; and improved safety.