All photos me too, copyrighted
Even though I have stated time and again that I generally do not deal with “large aviation” topics here at Achtung, Skyhawk!, I was nevertheless always glad to deviate from this rule if the material I’d come across was unusual or interesting enough. Somewhat predictably given the above, I am about to do so once again, having recently gotten the opportunity to dive into one aspect of modern aviation that few enthusiasts (sadly) get to see: the fascinating world of “proper” flight simulators :).
The last link in the commercial aviation training chain – and just one short step away from the actual cockpit – these devices are often subject to a great deal of naming confusion, so I thought it best to clear the air first before proceeding on. Even though pretty much any replica of an aircraft (or its systems) intended for training is generically labelled a “simulator”, the word is technically reserved only for those devices that provide:
- an accurate physical representation of the cockpit with working controls throughout
- fully simulate in detail all of the aircraft’s systems (including those not present in the cockpit itself)
- emulate the aircraft’s flying characteristics to a very high degree of accuracy (90+ %)
- provide the pilots with a seamless wide field of view outside the cockpit
- and, most important of all, provide a sense of motion around all three axes to complete the immersion
When all of the above is ticked, the device in question becomes a “proper” simulator, known more accurately as either a Full Flight Simulator (FFS) or a Level D Simulator (the latter being more informal and taken from the name of the standard defining the requirements for civilian units). Devices which do not simulate motion – no matter how advanced they may be in other respects – are called Flight, Navigation and Procedures Trainers (FNPT), often shortened to just “procedural trainers”. However, both forms of the latter have shown themselves to be unwieldy to use in casual conversation, leading to their replacement – by popular choice – with the plain old “simulator” :).
The device I’ve had the chance to use is a Full Flight Simulator for the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, owned and operated by the world-renowned Flight Safety International training organization, and located in the equally-famous UK town of Farnborough. A very sophisticated piece of kit that can cost upwards of EUR 10,000,000 – almost half a real Q400 in its most basic form 🙂 – this particular FFS is approved for use for both recurrent and initial (type rating) training, and is I believe one of only three or four Q400 units located in Europe. Given the number of Dash 8 operators gravitating towards the region, this had naturally meant that its schedule was quite busy at times, leaving little to no breathing space between successive runs; nevertheless, my camera and myself were undeterred, using whatever breaks we had to have a look around… 🙂
NOTE: some of the shots may not be up to my usual standard – however, the lighting situation in both the FFS and the simulator hall itself was (as can be noticed) not ideal, and due to “baggage weight saving measures” I was forced to work without a tripod…