Chris Long takes a look at new entrant in the equipment manufacturing market, Farnair Europe.
With the continuing uptick in training demands it is no surprise that there are new entrants in the training market. The size of that market, and the opportunities for innovation in it, can encourage new players, who do not necessarily have a large array of legacy thinking and technologies, but who can start with a “clean sheet” solution. The universal pressure on training costs opens the doors to new solutions. Legacy training equipment manufacturers are themselves moving to offer evolutions of existing processes, but the new entrants can often blend ideas and technologies into solutions which do not have their origins in historic methodologies.
One of those new arrivals is the training package which is being developed by the Swiss-based Farnair Europe in cooperation with Austrian-based infoWERK and COBiiAS. Recognising that travel and accommodation charges add significantly to the training cost, Farnair identified that there is a potential market for an easily-transported training system, and is developing hardware which has been designed around a computer and display screens which can be rapidly installed at the customers point-of training, and which only needs a normal mains electricity supply and a good internet connection.
Captain Alfred Haas, the Head of Training at Farnair, describes the underlying principle as one which combines all the aircraft familiarisation, systems training, and aircraft operation for the theoretical elements of the Type Rating Training, initially for the ATR series of aircraft, but which later will be adapted to the Boeing 737NG and Airbus A320 family. The locally-installed flat panel trainer is connected via high-speed internet to the server, which has a Farnair-designed software package. The trainees, working as a crew, use a display screen and keyboard which presents systems information and explanation as well as check lists, and actions are carried out on the touchscreen flat panel trainers (FPT). One further innovation is an alternative display, a big screen Electronic Poster, which not only displays the entire cockpit, but also has the easy transportability of the conventional FPT.
The story is taken up by Captain Marcelo Vissotto, Postholder Crew Training, who explains the process. Rather than a segmented approach, with elements covered separately and then brought together further downstream in the training pattern, the principle is to present just-in-time knowledge in a logical chronological order, working through a normal operational flight.
So, for instance, the introduction has the trainee approaching the virtual aircraft and then being shown the door operating system and sequencing, the operation of the seat controls, and the initial checks. At each point the systems are illustrated and explained, the appropriate checklist shown and the corresponding cockpit indications displayed. The software, and Learning Management System, both developed by infoWERK, guide the trainees' progress at their own pace, and also provides the link to an online instructor, either live or through messaging for a later response. The Learning Management System tracks all the learning parameters and assessments. Once the basic knowledge has been absorbed, more detailed information and complex procedures are introduced to build up the operating skills to the point at which formal testing can be completed.
The system is expected to be ready in mid-2014. Whilst at the moment this tool does not have regulatory approval, Haas anticipates that the principle of training to competency will enable Austro Control to formally acknowledge its effectiveness, and then to grant training credits for type rating, and thus reduce the required time in the full flight simulator.
There are an increasing number of both improved and completely new training devices coming to market. This version from Farnair is an offering from a new generation of training providers, and could show the way to more cost-effective training solutions which are coming to market.