CAE's AS350 simulator promotes realistic training

 - March 4, 2011, 4:26 AM

CAE’s new 3000-series helicopter simulator brings an extraordinary amount of realism into what is essentially a computer-driven replica of a Eurocopter AS350B2 cockpit capable of simulating a variety of real-world training experiences. With the Tropos-6000 visual display projecting the view outside the cockpit onto screens that wrap around the cockpit’s chin windows, flying the simulator seems extremely close to a real helicopter. The visual system covers a field of view 220 degrees horizontal and 80 degrees vertical.

AS350 instructor Joe Ugulano flew left seat during the demonstration of the simulator's capabilities during a visit to CAE's training facility inside the USAirways Training Center in Phoenix. The CAE 3000 AS350 light helicopter flight and mission simulator has a three-degree-of-vibration motion platform, and a full-motion system is under development. The goal of the simulator is to replicate, as realistically as possible, real-world missions like offshore, EMS, law enforcement, long line, high-altitude and other scenarios.

During the demo flight, Ugulano landed on a simulated oil platform, which displayed the high level of detail provided by the Tropos-6000. Ocean waves and whitecaps looked authentic, as did the ropes of the helideck net and flames from outgassing stacks. The CAE 3000 incorporates artificial intelligence that puts random workers onto the helideck and pops up helicopters flying near the platform and other elements like ground vehicles that might take a pilot by surprise in the real world. Ugulano swapped the industrial world of the oil platform for a dense urban setting to demo an EMS pickup in a tight spot in Newark, N.J. Again, the simulator inserted people into the scene, including EMS personnel who wheeled a stretcher to the helicopter after we landed. These scenarios clearly provide a huge training benefit, and the addition of random intrusions helps keep the training fresh.

After some practice hovering and flying the AS350 simulator around Teterboro Airport, Ugulano had me try some emergencies, including hydraulic failure, tailrotor failure and a stuck tailrotor control. Ugulano, who has more than 24,000 hours of helicopter flight time, said that the simulator accurately replicates the AS350's flying characteristics, including the hover and landing. The best part about flying the simulator is that it feels extraordinarily realistic—compared to real helicopters that I have flown—thanks to the vibration platform and wraparound visual system.

The AS350 simulator was qualified by the FAA for Level 7 flight training device credits last September. Upcoming ICAO Type III standards could allow pilots to use the CAE 3000 simulator for 100 percent of training tasks for the instrument rating, air transport pilot, type rating, recurrency and operator-specific training plus up to 50 percent of training-to-proficiency tasks, according to CAE. The simulator is designed to meet the emerging ICAO standards.

CAE also has helicopter full-flight simulators (FFS) based in Bangalore, India (Bell 412); Dubai (Bell 412); Sesto Calende, Italy (AgustaWestland A109 and AW139); Morristown, N.J. (AW139 and Sikorsky S76); and the company is planning to deploy a Bell 412 FFS in Mexico.