FlightSafety International’s Simulation Innovation Lab in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is unveiling a new glass-and-graphics technology which can serve as a “training canvas.” The first product to use the proprietary “looking glass” is an FAA Part 60 Level 4/5 flight training device (FTD) branded as MissionFit. The concept can also be applied to military training.
The single piece of glass – with built-in projection, wireless connectivity, and touch-screen – is used to display an aircraft’s avionics panel in the MissionFit application. “Wireless SmartPanels” can be used for flight guidance, multi-function keyboards and cursor control devices. The graphics for the flight deck instrumentation and the aircraft-specific flight simulation program are downloadable via the internet. In its most basic, clean-glass setup, a customer with a mixed fleet could retrieve different aircraft from the “MissionFit Cloud” without any hardware changes.
But unlike traditional LCD flat panel trainers, the FlightSafety training glass can accommodate tactile components such as a flight guidance panel, gear handles, and throttles, which are integrated with the glass. Customers can also add a separate out-the-window visual system with a large-screen television or a projection display.
“We’ve looked at the cockpit flow, how the pilot operates the cockpit, anything that’s hands on and continuously flying – guidance control panel, landing gear, throttles, and cursor control devices; those are the main things, but we have the capability of doing anything,” said John Van Maren, VP Simulation, in an exclusive conversation with Halldale Group.
“We can cut the piece of glass to any size and shape,” said Steve Smith, Product Director for the Simulation Innovation Lab. “We can cut holes in the glass to put in tactile panels, unlike any other flat training device, and there are no bezels in the way.”
In the MissionFit mode, FlightSafety customers may use the device for cockpit and avionics familiarization, systems integration, and some flight training. Smith said the technology is “infinitely scalable” to meet training needs.
The trainer is designed to be “extremely easy to use. It can be fully operated by pilots and doesn’t require any maintenance staff,” according to Smith. “Start it with the push of a button in the morning, train on it, shut it down at night.” The device can be controlled by the instructor from a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
In the integrated tactile carve-out configuration, a separate aircraft would require a different piece of custom glass. “With this technology, you can change it from a King Air 350 to a Pilatus PC12 very simply by changing the glass and tactile elements. No cables, no tools. Just four quick-release fasteners, lift the glass off, pop the new one in place,” explained Smith.
The core innovation is the glass technology, which can be positioned in any angle, vertical or horizontal, opening up a wide range of training possibilities. “It doesn’t have to be a cockpit,” said Steve Phillips, FlightSafety communications vice-president. “The glass canvas can display any kind of training material a customer wants”– sensors, maintenance, naval, tactical sandbox, healthcare. It could also be used in a classroom environment.
Van Maren said the Innovation Lab is a dedicated research & development team “focused on solving some of the persistent problems in the training industry. We moved them out of our main Tulsa facility and basically gave them free rein.”
FlightSafety said their MissionFit glass design is not connected in any way to smartglass technologies such as Google Glass. However, the Innovation Lab team did draw on the engineering resources of FlightSafety Displays (the former Glass Mountain Optics).