Airlines around the globe are equipping their cockpits with new technologies. At the same time, airline training organizations and training device OEMs are migrating these systems and devices into flight crew learning curricula, reports Group Editor Marty Kauchak.

An array of new systems and devices is being installed in cockpits throughout the civil aviation sector. Airline training departments and the simulation and training (S&T) industry are following the mantra “train as you operate” by migrating these technologies into courses and training devices which support flight crews’ training curricula.

Representative Technologies

This February’s Singapore Air Show was the venue for significant sales of new avionics and other cockpit equipment to civil aviation carriers. In one instance, Rockwell Collins landed agreements at this conference to deliver its latest radar and avionics technologies to a number of airlines throughout the Pacific region including China Eastern Airlines. The Chinese carrier selected a comprehensive suite of Rockwell Collins’ communication, navigation and surveillance avionics, including Rockwell Collins’ new MultiScan ThreatTrack™ , and SATCOM for 80 new aircraft, including 60 Airbus A320s and 20 Boeing 777s.

The MultiScan ThreatTrack weather radar provides one glimpse of the capabilities that allow flight crews to more safely operate their aircraft. The weather radar delivers “unprecedented capabilities for assessing lightning, hail and turbulence…” according to a company document. Additionally, “MultiScan ThreatTrack goes beyond hail and lightning prediction within a thunderstorm cell and alerts pilots to these significant threats adjacent to the cell. If these thunderstorms are growing ahead of and below the aircraft, ThreatTrack’s Predictive Overflight™ protection warns the flight crew if the cells will be in the aircraft’s flight path.”

Rockwell Collins further noted the MultiScan ThreatTrack “is the first in the industry to feature two levels of turbulence detection - severe and ride-quality - which more accurately informs flight crews of the type of turbulence in their path.”

Beyond the new weather radar, other new and proven technologies were part of China Eastern’s selection, including Rockwell Collins’ GLU-925 Multi-Mode Receiver, reported to be the first ever certified GPS Landing System receiver, and an automatic detection finder, distance measuring equipment, VOR (VHF omnidirectional range) short-range radio navigation system and HF/VHF radios.

Operational Imperative

Airlines and their S&T industry counterparts remain focused on transferring Rockwell Collins’ and other companies’ technologies into their training devices and other instructional media - and with good reason. As Randy Gawenda, Frasca’s sales and marketing director, pointed out “We all know the cockpit is generally a bad classroom, whether learning to fly or a seasoned pilot learning a new piece of technology. Trying to figure something out on a dark, moonless night or IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) approaching a mountainous area or 1,000’ AGL (above ground level) in an orbit is not, and never will be, the right place for training. Honestly the simulator is really the only place to do some of this training.”

That perspective resonates well within airline training departments.

Warren Christie, JetBlue’s vice president of Operational Planning and Training, noted it is imperative that air crews be allowed to train with the systems and devices found in their cockpits. The community training subject matter expert pointed out that, in one instance, his airline’s Embraer E190’s cockpit is dual head-up display (HUD) configured. This equipping decision was driven by the operational imperative that some of the smaller cities served by this aircraft lacked infrastructure to provide adequate approach standards desired by JetBlue.

“We also invested in the dual-HUD technology at that time for our simulators,” Christie said, and continued, “If you don’t make the investment in your training equipment, your pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and others will learn to do their job without them. The usage or adoption rate in the operational environment will be very low and in some cases considered a distraction, rather than an instrument to assist them. This is the primacy of learning – to provide them with the same tools in the beginning of their training that they will use in operations, otherwise you won’t be successful.

Another community insight was provided by Yue Xu, the general manager of the Engineering and Maintenance Department at Shanghai Eastern Flight Training Company. The community subject matter expert told CAT that when a new cockpit device is received, “normally a complementary section training will be setup and implemented to the training syllabus.”

More significant, instruction may be delivered through different strategies. “Depending on the technology, the complemented training could be classroom, computer-based training, integrated procedures trainer, or full flight simulator. Training records will be kept,” he added.

OEM Insights

The S&T industry equipment providers are responding to the expanding requirement of operators of rotary and fixed wing aircraft to include flight deck technologies in their training devices. 

Frasca’s Gawenda said this February, that his team just delivered an EC155 flight training device (FTD) to the German Federal Police. He added, “This device incorporated dual-channel projectors that stimulate actual NVIS (night vision imaging system) equipment so the realism and fidelity is the highest level possible in simulation today for NVG training. It also contained one of the latest cutting-edge EuroNav systems available as well.”

The Champaign, Illinois-based community subject matter expert provided another interesting dimension to this discussion when he emphasized that Frasca “strives for the highest accuracy possible to maximize the value and training return on investment.”

Beyond the recent FTD delivery to the German Federal Police, Gawenda pointed out that Frasca has installed “FLIR simulation, Garmin G1000, Aspen avionics, Pro-Line 21, TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) and others technologies” in its training devices. He added, “We’ve added Synthetic Vision to our devices with the FAA which is phenomenal cockpit technology to use. We upgraded our devices with the US Air Force in Afghanistan to add GWX 68 weather radar and currently we are the first and only simulator OEM to integrate Garmin GTN 650/750 hardware into our devices.”

Frasca installs actual cockpit equipment or their high fidelity renderings in its training devices. It really depends on the training task and outcomes desired, Gawenda explained. “The proper solution is driven by this and this is where we really enjoy having a close working relationship with our customers. In general, we try to preserve the fit, form, and function to the highest level possible because after 55 years of business, we understand that our customers always want something to be as accurate as possible but that makes sense for their budget as well,” he added. Gawenda also recalled there are over 1.6 million lines of code in the Garmin G1000 and Garmin is an entire company dedicated to just avionics. “However, there are low cost, third-party versions of the G1000 for simulation, but you do have to ask yourself, ‘What are they missing’ because in a common sense, practical world, you know it is not the same regardless of how much marketing spin one puts on it,” he added.

L-3 Link UK is similarly meeting its end users’ evolving requests for inserting the latest cockpit technologies in their training systems. Indeed, the company’s recent customers that have provided such requirements are Boeing Training & Flight Services, All Nippon Airways, Qatar Airways, Air India, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

David White, the company’s chief scientist, observed that in one instance, Rockwell Collins’ ISS-2100 configurable Integrated Surveillance System (ISS) is the integrated form of that company’s WXR-2100 MultiScan ThreatTrack and is employed on Boeing 787 full flight simulators and lower level devices, both the flat panel trainers and the desk top trainers.

The industry veteran further explained “While the aircraft Integrated Surveillance System Processing Units (ISSPUs) are employed on full flight simulators, they are stimulated from the same L-3 Link UK weather radar simulation as used on the lower level devices.”

The current aircraft ISS which provides the WXR (weather radar transceiver), TAW (terrain awareness and warning), TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) and transponder functions that are defined in ARINC 768-1 is currently being upgraded. The enhancement will provide additional functions that are defined in ARINC 768-2; e.g. ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast) (In), CDTI (Cockpit Display of Traffic Information) and other functions in support of NextGen - SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) operations and procedures.

As significant, White observed the end user requirements in this area are currently still in their infancy as they tend to be driven mainly by mandated functionality for new build and retrofit aircraft, and its impact on operations and procedures.

“All of the above is also applicable to Airbus A350, although the aircraft and training device architectures and implementations are different to those of the Boeing 787,” he emphasized.

On the Horizon

L-3 Link UK’s White further predicted the next big change in training devices will come with aircraft changes in the cockpit that will be necessary to operate in a NextGen - SESAR environment, especially the crew display of traffic information (Surveillance and Pilot Interaction) and the associated shift from voice communications to data communications.

“One key element that we tried to get included in ARINC 439 (Simulated ATC Environment) was the recognition of this future shift from voice communications to data communications when operating in a NextGen - SESAR environment,” White recalled, and continued “We got the basic framework included in the document that was put up for approval by ARINC at the end of last year, but some of the detail was omitted and we plan to actively follow up on the detail of data communications in ARINC 439 when the balance from voice communications to data communications changes in day-to-day operations.”