The NTSB announced two helicopter safety alerts during last week’s Heli-Expo show in Anaheim, Calif. Each alert was supplemented by a short video production. One alert focuses on improving helicopter safety through the use of advanced flight simulators, while the other considers the critical role of maintenance technicians in the overall safety of flight operations.
FlightSafety International is upgrading its helicopter simulator graphics with its new Vital 1100 visual system and has already qualified it in several level-D machines and for use in other advanced training devices. Providing sharper resolution and a larger field of view, the new system has five times the computing power of its Vital X predecessor and significantly enhances training by providing realistic mission-specific imagery with improved scene content and greater levels of detail, says the training provider.
“Implementing recommended safety improvements that address helicopter operations can mitigate risk for thousands of pilots and passengers each year,” said NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman, referring to the recently released NTSB Safety Alert SA-031. “At this week’s Heli-Expo, we are working with HAI to increase awareness and identify voluntary action taken by key stakeholders to improve the safety of helicopter operations.”
Shreveport, La.-based Metro Aviation (Booth No. 415), owner of the Helicopter Flight Training Center in Shreveport, announced at Heli-Expo that Air Medical Group Holdings (AMGH) is its launch customer for simulator training. AMGH and Metro signed a four-year training agreement using the EC135 level-D full-motion simulator as well as the AS350 and Bell 407 Level 7 flight training device.
Last year at Heli-Expo simulator manufacturer FlyIt Technology (Booth No. 2433) enlightened attendees about the advantages of flight simulation for helicopter training and proficiency. The display of FlyIt’s “Advanced Flight Motion System,” which replicates the feel of flying in a non-moving device, was a success. Deliveries began in July 2013, with simulators going to Russia, China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala and Angola.
FlightSafety International (FSI) received approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its Embraer Legacy 500 maintenance training program on February 21. Embraer Executive Jets factory and authorized service center personnel are already receiving training on the under-development Legacy 500, and FSI will begin providing training services to operators of the new jet immediately following its certification.
FlightSafety International (Booth No. 5902) is upgrading its helicopter simulator graphics with its new Vital 1100 visual system and already has qualified it in several level-D units and for use in other advanced training devices. FlightSafety says the new system has five times the computing power of its Vital X predecessor and significantly enhances training by providing realistic mission-specific imagery with improved scene content and greater levels of detail.
While the safety and practical benefits of simulators are well known to the airline industry, they are still relatively new to civil helicopter pilots, instructors and operating companies. First, the student and instructor do not have to spend time flying to a particular place–for example, a hilly area, an offshore platform and so forth. With one click of a mouse at the instructor station, the helicopter and the crew find themselves teleported.
The civil helicopter industry is, at last, taking advantage of simulators in pilot training decades after the fixed-wing aircraft industry began to do so. Simulators are proliferating around the world and, after having been concentrated in the medium-twin segment, now also include light turbine singles. The emergence of rotorcraft simulators in recent years was prompted by a combination of factors: technology, cost, insurance and a realization that the industry must improve a poor safety record.
Befitting the vertical lift that members of the Helicopter Association International (HAI) provide to the world, on the eve of Heli-Expo 2014, association president Matt Zuccaro pronounced the state of the industry “very up.”
“Air tours are doing well, corporate operations have re-established themselves and offshore oil and gas work is very busy right now, so it’s a pretty positive picture,” Zuccaro said. Nonetheless, the industry faces challenges including a potential shortage of pilots and mechanics.
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