Primus Epic for the PC shaves simulator time

 - October 12, 2007, 7:33 AM

With the Primus Epic integrated avionics system poised to make its debut in a variety of business airplanes and the Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter, Honeywell is introducing a desktop PC version of the glass cockpit that pilots can use before they ever strap in for training in a full-flight simulator.

The Primus Epic Rehost software is an exact duplication of the operating system that controls the actual avionics system. With a single CD-ROM and a laptop computer, flight crews will now be able to make far better use of their training time by running flight scenarios from home or a hotel room before heading to the classroom, said Kevin O’Brien, program manager for Honeywell Training Solutions.

The first software release, due this summer, is for Dassault’s Falcon 900EX with the Honeywell EASy integrated flight deck. It will provide a realistic presentation of all cockpit displays, FMS and the guidance panel for autopilot and autothrottle, said O’Brien. Next will be versions for the Gulfstream 550, Falcon 2000EX and Embraer 170, which are likely to be followed by releases for all airplanes and helicopters flying with Primus Epic.

“Pilots can perform all the functions of the Primus Epic cockpit using a mouse to input data and to serve as the cursor-control device,” said O’Brien. “The complexity of modern aircraft is going to require that pilots use a tool such as this.”

Training providers FlightSafety and CAE SimuFlite have indicated they may purchase the software for use in their classrooms, he added. The coming generation of aviators destined to use Primus Epic will thus be able to shave some learning time and have a better understanding of the avionics before flying the simulator.

As one might expect, Primus Epic Rehost won’t run on just any laptop. Honeywell has teamed with Minneapolis-based Aerosim to develop the CD-ROM version of the software, which requires a PC with at least a 2-GHz processor, 512 megabytes of RAM and a “gaming level” graphics card. But, said O’Brien, most new desktop and laptop PCs come standard with at least that level of capability.

In fact, the reason such software hasn’t been available before is that PC technology is just now catching up with the computing horsepower present in modern cockpits. “A year ago there wasn’t a laptop that could support this,” said O’Brien. “Now, PCs with this capability are the norm.”

Depending on how Primus Epic Rehost fares in the market, Honeywell may decide to develop a version for its forthcoming Apex integrated avionics systems for light jets, turboprops, helicopters and high-end piston airplanes. Such software could be handed to pilots for use with Web-based lessons, or the software could run in “free play” mode, allowing for what O’Brien termed discovery learning, whereby pilots would try things just to see how the system reacts.

Discovery learning is based on an “Aha!” approach to training, used most often in problem-solving situations where the learner draws on his own experience and past knowledge to discover what needs to be learned. Researchers believe that students may retain more of what they discover on their own.

“Discovery learning can be invaluable,” said O’Brien. “While at first the cockpit may seem a little overwhelming, it’s useful to let pilots explore, to play around, to learn at their own pace.”