CAE’s Series 5000 delivers high fidelity at a lower cost

 - July 12, 2008, 4:18 AM

The new Series 5000 full flight simulator that CAE inaugurated recently at its Burgess Hill training center near Gatwick is the first example of a new design intended as a more affordable alternative to the company’s established 7000 series.

The simulator, representing an Airbus A320, has been qualified to Level D by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Marc Parent, CAE’s group president, simulation products and military training and services, said at the inauguration that the idea for the device had come from customers who wanted “a more competitive, cost-effective simulator with quicker delivery and no compromise on quality or fidelity.”

CAE launched the Series 5000 design in March 2007 to address the training requirement for high-volume commercial narrowbody aircraft–the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, in other words–and regional types, as well as the emerging requirements for multi-crew pilot license (MPL) and very light jet (VLJ) training.

“There are 200,000 commercial pilots in the world today,” said Parent. “We will need 400,000 in 20 years’ time, when there will be only 50,000 of today’s pilots left. That means we need to train 18,000 new pilots every year for the next 10 years.”

The training requirements, he said, are directly proportional to the number of aircraft in service. A320 or 737 fleets, for example, typically require one simulator for every 30 airplanes. “Once an airline has a certain number of aircraft it makes sense to own its own asset,” he said.

Where the 7000 series that represents the top of CAE’s range is fully customized, Parent said, the 5000 is standardized for low cost: “The big difference is that one is a stimulated solution, the other is a simulated solution. The 7000 typically uses real aircraft boxes, real avionics, but the 5000 has simulated displays.”

Avionics are a big part of the 7000 series cost, but operators of big fleets can make deals with suppliers for extra avionics to use in their simulators, Parent explained. Many airlines, too, will use aircraft spares and logistics to support their simulators.

Third-party training centers such as CAE’s Burgess Hill establishment don’t buy aircraft, he said, “so they can’t make deals with systems manufacturers and they do not carry spares.” Operators ideally want the avionics to represent their particular model. “If they are using real aircraft avionics they will be very closely matched, but third party customers come from multiple airlines so it’s impossible to have the exact configuration of any one of them,” he said. Low-cost airlines, meanwhile, may be happy to accept the compromise in exchange for lower costs.

In the 5000 series all the instruments are simulated, but pilots typically do not notice the difference until it is pointed out, according to instructors at Burgess Hill. The device features all-electric motion and control loading systems, speech recognition-enabled automated air traffic control environment simulation, and composite components to reduce weight and manufacturing times.

Other Series 5000 devices have been ordered by Lufthansa Flight Training for the A320 and Bombardier Q400, Ryanair (five Boeing 737), Embraer-CAE Training Services (two Phenom 100/300), Qantas (737), Aeroflot (A320) and Emirates-CAE Flight Training (Hawker 800 XPi). They will also be used in CAE’s own global training network and in the Airbus-CAE training cooperation.

The Burgess Hill center opened just three years ago, but by April it had filled nine of its 12 bays, and by April 2009 all 12 should be in operation. In addition to the 5000 Series A320, there are three 7000 Series devices representing the A320 and others for the A340-600, Boeing 747-400, Dassault Falcon 7X, Falcon 900 and Bombardier Global Express. Next year will see the arrival of the first Phenom 100/300 simulator.

CAE “works with customers any way they prefer,” Parent said. In New York, for example, it maintains and operates JetBlue’s own simulators in the airline’s own building. It has joint ventures with airlines and manufacturers around the world, such as AirAsia in Kuala Lumpur and Emirates in Dubai, where the airline does all the training for its own aircraft with equipment bought from CAE, while a 50/50 joint venture next door does third party training.

CAE also runs an ab initio pilot school in Portugal and has partnered with the government of India to run two flying schools in that country. A joint venture with the Airport Authority of India (AAI) would develop the National Flying Training Institute (NFTI), and CAE has agreed to become the managing partner of the Indian government’s Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) flight training academy.
Last month CAE announced the acquisition of the Sabena Flight Academy, which operates a 40-airplane ab initio flight academy in Mesa, Arizona, and a training center with six simulators in Brussels.   

Engineering a More Affordable Flight Simulator

Flight simulator manufacturers have been applying new technologies to improve realism and lower the acquisition and operating costs of their products.

Mark Dransfield, Thales Training & Simulation director for marketing and strategy, said the biggest change in projection systems has been the replacement of calligraphic cathode ray tubes (CRT) with liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) projectors: “That means a move from bespoke, specific projection systems to a commercial off-the-shelf system.” LCOS projectors are used in applications such as high-definition displays in meeting rooms, so cost is reduced significantly and supportability improved.

At the same time, the availability of Google Earth type applications means there is a large amount of geotypical data that can be used for a small license fee to construct whole Earth databases at much better resolution. And the gaming industry has been driving hardware advances in PCs and graphics cards.

Below the floor of the simulator cab, Dransfield said, electric motion is finally replacing the heavier, more power-hungry hydraulic systems that have been standard in high-end systems. The Thales eM2K electric motion system gives an 80 percent reduction in energy consumption, “and given that a new simulator may be in service for 25 years that can be a significant energy saving.”

Electric motors are also replacing hydraulic servos in the control loading systems that replicate the forces acting on the flight controls. Thales simulators incorporate both eM2K and electric control loading (ECL).

The new multi-crew pilots license (MPL), which has undergone beta tests over the last 18 months, places much greater reliance on simulation. A key factor for Thales in the new curriculum, Dransfield said, is the requirement for a more integrated product range.

MPL training is divided into four phases, with core flying skills followed by basic, intermediate and advanced stages and culminating in qualification to fly as co-pilot in an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. The advanced part requires a Level D simulator, but the first phase can be taught on a very simple training device. A key difference between the MPL and traditional commercial licenses is that it is not done in an airplane, Dransfield said.

Because the MPL is specifically a multi-crew qualification that does not entitle holders to operate a single-crew aircraft without additional qualifications, cadets start training in pairs in the second phase. The intermediate phase requires higher performance, and there is a debate that remains to be resolved about whether it requires a type-specific low-level simulator or can be accomplished on a non-type-specific fixed base trainer.

Here at Farnborough, meanwhile, Thales is showcasing its Boeing 787 flat panel trainer. This forms part of an integrated suite of training products for the type that also includes desktop trainers and full flight simulators, all using the same software.
Thales is delivering nine integrated training suites to Boeing training subsidiary Alteon. “The fact that they all use the same software as the full flight simulator means there is a flow down of fidelity and integrity from the highest level to the simplest desktop trainer,” Dransfield said. The 787 training suites will be located in Tokyo, Seattle, London Gatwick and Shanghai as well as other locations around the world.