SimCom takes PC-12 training to next plane

 - March 16, 2007, 3:06 PM

Representatives of Pilatus Business Aircraft were on hand January 8 to witness the unveiling of SimCom Training Center’s newest simulator, an advanced Pilatus PC-12 non-motion simulator installed at SimCom’s Scottsdale, Ariz. facility. Thomas Bosshard, president and CEO Pilatus’ U.S. subsidiary based near Denver, said the simulator represents a substantial upgrade to the first PC-12 simulator built in 1997 and currently in operation at SimCom’s Orlando, Fla. facility.

“PC-12 [simulator] number one was built after PC-12 [aircraft] serial number 151 had been built,” said Bosshard. “Now fast forward 300 serial numbers and to Series 10. There had been enough commonality between Series 1 through 9 aircraft that we could update [the Orlando sim with] virtually all components for Series 1 to 9. But there have been more than 50 new product improvements between Series 9 and Series 10, and all of them are reflected in this new sim.”

As the sole training provider for Pilatus outside Europe, SimCom has provided initial or recurring training for nearly all of the 300 PC-12 owners based in the continental U.S. and Canada. Already sold out of this year’s PC-12 production, Pilatus builds 60 to 65 PC-12s per year, approximately 75 percent of which are sold in North America. Since Pilatus provides initial training as part its new aircraft purchase price, the Swiss-based company began looking for a second training provider after classes at Orlando began backing up.

“When we were trying to decide where to place the second simulator, we turned to our long-established relationship with SimCom,” Bosshard said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “A large proportion of our [North American] sales have been on the West Coast, and Scottsdale seemed like the ideal place for a second sim. Many of our customers have second homes here.”

After being selected as the second PC-12 simulator location, the Scottsdale facility needed to make changes to its 10,000-sq-ft complex to accommodate the new cockpit-based simulator, with its 180-degree wrap-around visual system, bank of nine computers and additional classroom needs. The new PC-12 sim was created from an actual PC-12 cockpit and incorporates all switches and controls found in the airplane. The Swiss manufacturer provided material support for the nearly $2 million simulator by delivering a cockpit directly off of the Pilatus assembly line.

“The first PC-12 simulator [currently at Orlando] was created out of a marketing shell mockup used when Pilatus was introducing the turboprop single to the U.S.,” said SimCom v-p and managing director Tracy Brannon. “This new simulator is [built around] a real cockpit that we turned into a sim.”

Even having the actual cockpit with all switches in place, the SimCom technicians who built the PC-12 simulator had their work cut out for them. Technicians laid and connected more than seven miles of cabling between the controls, two PC-based input/output boards, four image generators and other simulator components. All of the software used in the simulator was developed inhouse. The software developers used actual PC-12 Series 10 flight-test data to design the aerodynamic package, which includes flight dynamics, ground handling, propulsion and force feedback.
Orlando received the cockpit from Pilatus in late 2002 and began construction on the sim in January last year, finishing the sim in 10 months before sending it to Scottsdale. The first class was conducted in the new PC-12 system on November 2, and the sim has been used to train approximately 15 students per month since. SimCom expects that number to double in the near future as more U.S. owners take advantage of the new training location and upgraded features.

One advantage of the Scottsdale PC-12 sim over the one at Orlando is the ability to switch between the Bendix/King avionics installed as standard equipment in the PC-12 and the Garmin GNS 530 GPS/navcom, which Pilatus offers as an option. Both systems are installed in the new Scottsdale simulator, and the instructor can configure the avionics to match the customer’s aircraft by simply flipping a switch.
Sitting at a station just behind the left pilot seat, the instructor has complete control over the simulator’s operational settings, such as failing systems to simulate emergencies and setting the weather, lighting, time of day, aircraft location and other parameters. The simulator database contains every navaid in the U.S., although runways are available only for certain Florida airports.

The Scottsdale sim also has a marked improvement in visual quality, due mainly to the installation of new high-tech projectors that use micro-mirrors and prisms to project the computer-based images instead of the RGB projectors used in SimCom’s older simulators. Besides projecting a sharper, more realistic image that enhances depth perception in the simulator, the new projectors weigh less than 11 pounds, allowing for easier maintenance. SimCom has installed these new projectors in a few other simulators both at Scottsdale and Orlando, and has scheduled the Orlando PC-12 sim for the same upgrade in the near future.

The newest Pilatus simulator is the 20th built by SimCom since its founding in 1989, and the fifth sim installed at the Scottsdale facility. Additional simulators at SimCom’s Arizona facility include those for the twin Cessna, Baron, King Air and Citation. SimCom also offers simulator training programs in a number of other business and general aviation aircraft at its Orlando and Vero Beach, Fla. locations. 

SimCom Fields High-tech MU-2 Non-motion Simulators

When Mitsubishi, three years ago, began looking to replace its then 15-year-old simulators being used for training at FlightSafety’s Houston facility, it turned to FSI’s sim training rival SimCom, which agreed to upgrade both the simulators and the training syllabus. Now, with two new MU-2 simulators on line at its Orlando, Fla. facility and seven different courses available using either the simulator only or simulator and actual aircraft flight time, SimCom has strengthened its MU-2 program and expanded training options for MU-2 operators worldwide.

In December 2001 SimCom signed a contract with Mitsubishi to be the exclusive worldwide (excluding Japan) manufacturer-authorized facility for pilot and maintenance training for the MU-2 series. Mitsubishi transferred the existing simulators from FlightSafety to SimCom in May 2002, allowing the Orlando facility to begin student training while its engineers began constructing two new MU-2 simulators. The first SimCom MU-2 simulator was completed in April last year and represents the Marquise and Solitaire using the Garrett TPE331-10-511M turboprops. A second simulator, replicating MU-2J/K models with the Garrett TPE331-6-252M, entered service in October. The J/K simulator also allows for instrument change-outs to facilitate training in L/M/N/P models.

According to Tracy Brannon, SimCom vice president and managing director, the company trained approximately 120 MU-2 students last year, and expects that number to rise to 180 students this year. SimCom had been using the older MU-2 simulators to supplement training after the new sims were built, but student disinterest in using the older sims prompted SimCom to remove the former FlightSafety simulators from its facility in January.

“Interest in using the two FlightSafety simulators greatly diminished with the arrival of the new SimCom simulators,” Brannon said. “The FlightSafety simulators allowed only nighttime visuals and were limited to 120 degrees of vision. Our simulators have an [FAA level-5] approved visual system that accommodates both day and night visuals and all weather conditions in a 180-degree wraparound system.” Mitsubishi will be reclaiming the old simulators for possible return to its training facility in Japan.

To allow MU-2 operators a full range of options for their training needs, SimCom offers a variety of courses, ranging from six-day initials to two-day advanced refreshers. The six-day initial course, priced at $6,880 for one pilot, includes five days of classroom and MU-2 simulator time and a checkout in the customer’s aircraft. Brannon said SimCom encourages customers to bring their aircraft for more specific training.

“We think that aircraft training is important in the MU-2,” said Brannon. “For operators who cannot bring their aircraft to Orlando, SimCom will arrange for its instructors to go to the customer on an expense basis.”

Customers can get even more training in their aircraft through SimCom’s three-day line-oriented flight training (LOFT) course, priced at $3,320 per pilot. Designed to apply the lessons learned in initial training, this course provides 15 hours of dual cross-country instruction in the customer’s aircraft. The LOFT, also available for the Piper Malibu and Pilatus PC-12, meets the supervised operating experience (SOE) requirements mandated by many insurance companies for operators transitioning to the MU-2.