Airlines today are facing the need to provide more realistic training for their pilots, especially for new hires who are used to and expect the latest advances in technology to be incorporated into their training. This often means providing more visual systems capability than the minimums that are required by aviation regulatory agencies for Level D full flight simulators.

Along with acquiring brand-new and expensive full flight simulators, some airlines are turning to upgrading their older Level D FFSs with new visual systems to meet this need. One newer technology that has been found to help reduce simulator operating and maintenance costs while increasing resolution and realism has been the incorporation of DLP LED-based visual systems.

When RSI Visual Systems provided Hainan Airlines with the first DLP LED visual system in China for the airline's older Boeing 737NG full flight simulator, which was certified this August, the company was simply abiding by its core philosophy of providing the latest technology in the shortest amount of time to meet the needs of its customer.

The upgrade provides the airline's simulator with the company's XT4 visual system that features four million pixels per channel and utilizes projectiondesign's WQXGA solid-state LED-DLP projectors. This system provides twice the pixel performance and higher resolution than previously employed in the Hainan FFS, according to Alasdair MacPherson, RSI's Managing Director for Sales and Marketing.

In April, RSI completed two installations at British Airways Flight Training Center on the airline's A380 and B787 FFSs with the same visual system, as it did last year for one of the flight training center's Airbus A320 FFS. According to the company, this latter upgrade was the first time that four-meg DLP LED projectors had been employed for Level D FFS training.

"Users and pilots' expectations are not just met by the minimal standards," MacPherson said. "Today's pilots are familiar with computer games and advanced visual technologies. So we are working to leverage those games technologies to keep increasing the realism of the sims way beyond Level D capabilities. Enhancing the visual to make it more and more real is very desirable."

With its commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) component business model, RSI is very attuned to advances in personal computer technology, MacPherson said. By incorporating the latest PC computer processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), the company has been able to increase visuals performance by 20 to 25 per cent over the past two years, he pointed out.

"So when we talk about adding more realism beyond Level D, we are getting the horsepower and functional capability from the gaming market," MacPherson explained. “This allows the visual system to process data faster and allows us to put more content into the scene, just because we are leveraging that technology."

Another aspect to recommending DLP LED visual systems to customers is the desire for both simulator manufacturers and airlines to optimize the life-cycle costs of the simulator's visual systems, MacPherson added. A significant part of that is in consumable component replacement for legacy visual systems. However, RSI is not wedded to DLP LED, but works with customers to find the latest visuals technology to meet their needs, he added.

"If something better than LED came out tomorrow that fits the customer's requirements, we would be ready to evaluate it and then deploy it in a relatively short period of time," MacPherson summed up. "This is our business model." – Chuck Weirauch