TRU Delivers First CL-415 Water Bomber Sim to Ansett
Two years after establishing a business case for developing and manufacturing a full-flight simulator for the CL-415 water bomber, TRU Simulation + Training has delivered the level-D-qualified simulator to Ansett Aviation Training’s facility in Milan, Italy. “What’s really quite extraordinary is the training on these aircraft [to date] is completely done in the aircraft,” TRU v-p of technology and innovation Thomas Allen told AIN. “From a safety point of view, this is obviously causing some concern, and also from a quality of training point of view. So we saw a business case for producing a simulator for an aircraft there’s not a large volume of.”
Viking Aircraft of Vancouver, British Columbia, holds the type certificates for the CL-415 and its variants, including the CL-215 and CL-215T. It received the certificates as part of acquiring Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft program in 2016. Christian Bergeron, head of Viking’s Canadair aerial firefighting program, told AIN there are 162 CL-415s and variants in active service, with more than 90 in Europe and nearly 70 in North America. Ansett chose Italy as the simulator’s base, since the largest part of the fleet is in Europe, Allen said.
The simulator, which TRU designed and produced at its air transport division in Montreal, Canada, was designed to simulate conditions identical to those under which the CL-415 operates, including firefighting operations. “From a quality of training point of view, you can do things in a simulator that you can’t actually do in the aircraft,” Allen said. “On this particular aircraft, where you’re [simulating] scooping water, you’re flying at low altitudes through mountains, through fires which are heavy in smoke [and] turbulence, and then you have a failed engine. It adds a level of complexity to the pilot, but in fact [improves] safety [compared with] trying to reproduce these situations in the real aircraft.”
To reproduce those operations, TRU rented a CL-415, loaded it with test equipment to collect data for the simulator’s varied missions, and flew a range of scenarios. “The type of data-gathering was a bit different than the normal aircraft, because we actually did a number of tests on the water, different sea states and weather conditions to collect the data we use in the validation process,” Allen said.
Water Operations Experience
Simulating water operations is something with which TRU has familiarity. It also manufactured a level-D Twin Otter Series 400 full-flight simulator that was delivered in 2018 to Pacific Sky Aviation, a sister company of Viking Aircraft. The Twin Otter project gave TRU developers familiarity with incorporating things pilots look for when landing on or taking off from water, such as the direction of waves, wind streaks, or the direction a boat is moored in the water.
“We’ve enhanced that water model and it was part of the CL-415 [program], which had the additional complexity—or requirement—of being able to scoop water,” Allen said. “So you’re interacting with flying over the water, but you actually have your scoops down and you’re picking it up. So those two programs are related.”
During the simulator’s qualification process by regulators, they simulated landing in a lake, scooping water, and flying in the mountains at low altitude, he said. “They’re flying through the fire and—you can imagine, actually, the turbulence, the updrafts that come from all this heat. From a visual point of view, the smoke is such that you can barely see anything. I mean, it’s really modeling what the aircraft does. And the authority said in his years of doing this, this was the most exciting qualification he’s ever been involved in.” Viking’s Bergeron said he, too, had a chance to fly the simulator in a variety of mission scenarios. “It’s a remarkable piece of engineering,” Bergeron said.
Simulator qualification by ENAC was completed in late December, Allen said, and it is in its first quarter of service. The simulator also has been qualified by EASA, he said, with FAA qualification expected later. Its entry into service came a couple of months before Viking announced an avionics upgrade program for the CL-415, on March 18. “The type of upgrade it is would be hard to make the existing simulator convertible between the two,” he said. “Certainly the aircraft as deployed with the existing avionics suite, you need to train on that as well, so the discussion about how they’re going to train on those aircraft when they’re delivered, I think, is something that’s coming downstream.”
Allen explained that operators have been adding more avionics to their existing fleets of CL-415s, such as autopilot and flight management systems. “This is starting to be added more and more as standard, so we are talking with Ansett this year about adding autopilot and FMS to [the simulator], which, in fact, allows it to fly into some airports where there are more restrictions on navigation capabilities.”
And because the second-largest fleet of CL-415s resides in North America, TRU isn’t completely discounting the possibility of manufacturing a second simulator. “We would be happy to deliver another one,” Allen said. “The question is whether there’s a business case to have one deployed in North America.” He noted that while he was at Ansett in Italy, the company was booking simulator hours with a North American customer.