More than 22,500 pilots who have trained in Helisim helicopter flight simulators since the company opened in 2000 have contributed to it reaching a 100,000-hour milestone, which was celebrated by the French company just before the 2013 Paris Air Show.
“The ultimate goal of Helisim is to sharply increase flight safety by incorporating the entire flight envelope of the helicopter into training in full-flight simulators,” said Patrick Bourreau, Helisim president and CEO, at the anniversary event, which was held on June 13 at the Helisim training center adjacent to Eurocopter’s main assembly facility on Marseille-Provence Airport.
Bourreau warmly thanked Guy Dabadie, former Eurocopter chief test pilot, who attended the event, for his vision in the establishing Helisim and called him its “founding father.” Dabadie, who retired in 2009, told AIN he felt extremely proud of all the Helisim employees who have worked so hard to make Helisim a reality and a success.
Bourreau presented Jose Pizarro Junior, director of crew training for SonAir, with a large plaque signifying that the 100,000th simulator hour took place during a SonAir training session. Luanda, Angola-based SonAir operates 11 EC225s, four AS332L2s and 10 Sikorsky S-76C++s, mostly for oil and gas operations (two EC225s fly VIP operations). SonAir is one of Helisim’s biggest customers, Bourreau said, and added that none of the company’s customers account for more the 7 percent of the total business.
Helisim is a partnership of Eurocopter, Thales (both holding 45 percent) and Défense Conseil International (DCI), holding 10 percent. Jean-Baptiste Pinton, deputy CEO, explained that DCI is a private company of which the ministry of defense is a concurring shareholder and whose expertise is in the transfer of French military know-how. Not surprising, all of Helisim’s simulators are for Eurocopter helicopters and all are built by Thales. The participation of DCI in ownership of Helisim facilitates the approval of training French military operational tactics to foreign customers.
Dominque Mauder, Eurocopter (Static F220) executive vice president, global business and services, said that “40 percent of the company’s turnover is in service,” which includes training. “Providing the availability of full-flight simulators to customers is a key objective of Eurocopter,” he said. “Training in full-flight simulators [primarily level D qualified] shows better efficiency than training in flight.” Indeed, several aviation authorities now approve type ratings of pilots who have trained and flight-checked solely in Helisim simulators. Eurocopter sees continued growth in this area. Helisim also provides recurrent training and mission and operational training.
Operational training, also called scenario-based training using simulators, continues to become more realistic. Bourreau described one customer whose pilots typically wait for missions while on standby. When training at Helisim, the customer does not inform its pilots the exact time of their simulator sessions will take place, but rather has them to stay in their hotel and wait for a call to “scramble” for a mission. Bourreau said he likes to observe the training and has joined in the scenario by playing a role, such as the mayor of a municipality that has been affected by an emergency requiring helicopter support.
Helisim currently operates five level D simulators, one each for the AS332L1, AS332L2 (both as civil Super Pumas or military Cougars), AS365N2 (Dauphin/Panther), EC225 and EC155. These are actually full cockpit modules, which are designed to couple with one of two motion systems designated for them in the building. A third motion system is dedicated to the NH90. A multi-cockpit level 3 flight training device completes the current complement of trainers.
In the works is a level D simulator for the EC175. Conveniently, and symbolically, Helisim held the formal part of its 100,000-training-hour event in the recently completed bay for the EC175 sim. Because of space limitations on its property, this is the final expansion Helisim can make at its current location. But an interesting evolution of the NH90 training market is expected to provide space for another new Eurocopter sim. As it happens, Bourreau explained, flight training in Helisim’s NH90 is decreasing because several of its customers already have or are acquiring their own NH90 simulators and consequently decreasing the number of hours flown on Helisim’s machine.
Helisim officials maintain that level D full-flight simulators are an adequate solution for increasing flight safety via training. This includes zero flight time options for type ratings and initial training for an instrument rating and air transport pilot certificate. They also consider level D sims able to accommodate the increasing complexity of aircraft systems and mission scenarios.
Also attending the celebration were a few Helisim customers who happened to be in town for training, including Sindri Steingrimsson, director of flight operations for the Icelandic Coast Guard, and Lt. Col. Huub Groothuis, Royal Netherlands Air Force. Both spoke highly of the training Helisim provides and mentioned in particular the mission-oriented training offered, including flight using night-vision goggles in different scenarios and search and rescue.
Helisim’s recurrent courses include all possible emergency procedures, within flight profiles covering instrument flight rules (IFR) and mountainous terrain flying to operations at helipads, in confined areas and to offshore platforms. Twelve salaried and 36 part-time instructors provide 14,000 hours of simulation training per year for an average of 2,700 pilots. The training is scheduled 20 hours a day (the other four hours for maintenance and rolling the cockpit modules off and on the motion systems) and 350 days a year. o