Paris Air Show

AgustaWestland Expands Training Capabilities

 - June 17, 2013, 2:35 AM
Full-scale maintenance trainer in development at AgustaWestland’s facility in Sesto Calende, Italy.

AgustaWestland is in an expansive mood when it comes to civil rotorcraft training. The northern Italy-based helicopter manufacturer recently installed a new CAE-built AW139 full-flight simulator (FFS) at its primary training center in Sesto Calende and plans to add FFSs for the new AW189 and AW169 designs by 2014 and 2015, respectively. In addition, the company has recently launched courses in Switzerland and Malaysia, and anticipates future training expansion into the UK and Russia. The Middle East and South America are on its radar also.

The Finmeccanica subsidiary also offers in-aircraft flying training at its Cascina Costa and Vergiate plants in the picturesque lakes region near the Italian Alps, as well as ab initio training at Frosinone, south of Rome. Meanwhile on the U.S. East Coast there is pilot and maintenance technician training available on either end of the New Jersey Turnpike (Morristown to the north, Philadelphia to the south).

“We’ve got a pretty good handle, certainly, on where we want to go in the future and the journey we’ve been on in terms of providing the best possible level of training,” said John Ponsonby, AgustaWestland’s senior v-p, customer support and training services, during a recent demonstration of the new AW139 FFS.

AgustaWestland (Chalets A260, A232) has been delivering training for customers since 1965 and in 2001 formed the Rotorsim joint venture with Canadian simulator manufacturer CAE. The JV went operational seven years ago in the historic SIAI Marchetti plant, which dates to 1915, and the Sesto Calende training academy north of Milan is now named for aircraft designer Alessandro Marchetti. Rotorsim launched AW109 training in 2006 (currently E, LUH and Nexus variants), followed by the AW139, and then further AW139 capability in Morristown, near New York City, in 2008.

Last year, the various AgustaWestland centers trained almost 5000 students (split roughly equally between pilots and technicians) from more than 40 countries. Synthetic flight hours exceeded 22,000 and aircraft hours numbered more than 7,000. Training customers include CHC, PHI, Ornge, Mitsui, Inaer Spain and Italia, the Algeria Gendarmerie, and the New Jersey State Police.

The CAE 3000 Series level-D AW139 FFS is showcased in the new Building 16 on the Sesto Calende campus, which also houses a mission simulator and ancillary training devices for the Joint NH90 Training Program (JNPT) that Rotorsim manages for the Dutch military. The new building is designed to eventually accommodate up to nine FFSs, five flight-training devices (FTDs), classrooms, and a few dedicated customer offices–and it also has a rooftop helipad.

The 3000 Series simulator incorporates CAE’s latest visual and motion system technologies, leveraged from the Montreal company’s experience producing more than 100 helicopter simulators for military customers. The visual display is a 210-degree horizontal by 80-degree vertical field-of-view direct projection dome, about one-third deeper than the traditional 60-degree vertical limit for collimated displays. “There’s a continuous visual flow all the way down, including through the chin window beneath your feet,” explained Philippe Perey, CAE senior director, strategy and business development–helicopters. The Level D vibration system “is not just a seat shaker. It shakes the entire cockpit,” said Perey.

The helicopter-specific image generator features databases for urban environments with ground and rooftop heliports as well as the geo-specific ocean scenarios required by oil and gas industry clients–with highly detailed representations of real-world rigs “all positioned at their exact locations.” Maritime models incorporate 3-D sea states, low-altitude height and speed cues such as rotorwash recirculation effects, and air turbulence around oil rigs, moving ship superstructures, and mountain peaks or canyons. The focus, Perey emphasized, “is on mission training in adverse environments.”

The original AW139 FFS in Sesto Calende is being upgraded with new LCD projectors and a refurbished image generator, and is expected to return to service this summer.

In May, training commenced at the new AgustaWestland Malaysia Training Academy, located at Kuala Lumpur’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang. Initial courses are for the AW109 Power, GrandNew and AW139 types with the AW169 and AW189 expected as the market grows.

At Yeovil, 200 km west of London, UK government funding will help establish a civil helicopter and tiltrotor center, including a training academy in conjunction with the Newquay Cornwall Airport “Aerohub.”

Training capability in Russia is also anticipated as part of AgustaWestland’s HeliVert joint venture with Russian Helicopters in Tomilino, near Moscow, where glass-cockpit AW139s are now being assembled for the growing CIS market. “There will clearly be a requirement. It will emerge; it has emerged,” Ponsonby noted. He added, “Language is a very basic issue. My position is that, in the Russian market, training in Russian is a more effective way of delivering the output.”

AgustaWestland’s vision is to be a turnkey, customized solutions provider, producing a full range of training aids and services from multimedia to full-flight simulators, including procedures trainers, maintenance training devices, distance learning, and even facilities infrastructure development and instructors.

One example of this comprehensive package approach is a simulator developed in the past year for Switzerland’s Rega air ambulance service. The high-altitude search-and-rescue operator is now flying a fleet of AW109SP “Da Vinci” helicopters, for which they provided considerable design input to AgustaWestland. The Level B AW109SP FFS, located at Swiss Aviation Training at Zurich’s Kloten Airport, is the only such simulator in the world. Cockpit technology replicated includes the Flight-Logic synthetic vision electronic flight instrument system (EFIS), helicopter terrain awareness warning system (HTAWS) and Highway in the Sky (HITS).

AgustaWestland is also hoping its “family” concept of commonality between its aircraft types will lead to not only lower support costs but reduced training time as well. Rather than go through a traditional type rating for each aircraft, a pilot or maintenance technician might instead take an abbreviated “differences” course, leveraging his or her knowledge of the AW139 to add ratings for the new AW169 or AW189.

“We have a completely dedicated team developing the family concept,” Ponsonby said. In anticipation of AW189 offshore configuration certification this year, AgustaWestland plans discussions with regulators and hopes to deliver training courses as early as the 2nd half of 2013. “This is a long journey. It’s not going to happen overnight.”