Flight simulators are used for a variety of purposes from university level through to airline flight training.
Perhaps the key word in flight simulation is SAFETY. Using a simulator the pilot may fly an aircraft under all adverse conditions – safely!
From early flight training trainee pilots can use light aircraft simulators to learn and appreciate how an aircraft performs – safely!
University students may appreciate how the aircraft control surfaces work – safely!
No civil or military aircraft is designed without using a ‘physical’ flight simulator for design/aero/ergonomic/flight assessment.
How are simulators used?
At the top level of airline training, full flight simulators are on a motion base and used to simulate every type of scenario that might happen on an aircraft – severe storms, torrential rain, wind shear, engine failure, systems failures, fire on board, being a few of the emergencies that airline pilots may have to deal with, and train for in simulators. The full flight simulators are incredibly sophisticated pieces of modern technology, exactly replicating a specific aircraft.
You may appreciate that by using a flight simulator the design team at a large aircraft company are able to design/evaluate/and test an aircraft without leaving the factory!
Trainee pilots use flight training devices – these are not on a motion system, but are used for procedural training – flying approaches, and take offs, using the radio, familiarization with the instruments in a light aircraft.
University students use simulators in their aeronautical engineering courses to appreciate all aspects of aircraft design related principles from stability and control through to cockpit ergonomics, systems engineering and avionics.
What sort of jobs are available within flight simulation?
In order to manufacture a flight simulator you need all aspects of engineering skills:
Fully qualified designers; aeronautical engineers, mechanical, electrical, computer science, software, computer graphics, and electronics engineers.
Where are simulators sited?
A large proportion of full-flight simulators for airline training are to be found near the major airports – for example the British Airways facility is near London Heathrow.
There has been an increased tendency in the last few years for independent training centres to be set up, the simulators in which are hired/leased to airlines.
Flight training devices can be found at flying schools throughout the country, two of the largest in the U.K. being Cabair and Oxford Aviation Academy.
University simulators are sited in most of the U.K. universities offering degrees in aerospace or aeronautical engineering.
Who are the largest full flight simulator manufacturers?
Thales, based at Crawley, West Sussex, and CAE, who are in Montreal, Canada.
Who are the leading European manufacturers of flight training devices?
Alsim in France.
One of the leading university simulator firms is Merlin Flight Simulation, a small company based in Southern England, showing that flight simulation offers opportunities for entrepreneurial engineers as well.