Posted 8 years 107 days ago ago by Admin
At HAI HELI-EXPO 2014, we all experienced the buzz of helicopter flight simulation. It is apparent that simulators are being seriously ogled for their technological advancements and safety benefits by primary flight training organizations and commercial operators alike. Just a few decades ago, only the military was able to utilize what was extraordinarily expensive training equipment. Today, computer science advancements and exponential growth in markets like offshore oil and gas exploration have seeded the proliferation of high-quality, affordable simulation technologies. Recently, I had the opportunity to fly one of the simulators that created so much buzz at last year’s Heli-Expo: X-Copter.
Like a R44
As I entered the cool, clean environment of X-Copter’s simulation lab, I left outside the high-altitude sunshine of the company’s Prescott, Arizona, home. While the focus outside is often the prevalent central Arizona sunshine, my focus inside was on what sat in front of me: a FAA-approved X-Copter simulator for the Robinson R44, waiting to be fired up. The simulator cockpit is engineered to the exact specifications and size of the R44 cockpit, and the X-Copter's powder-coated steel body construction is solid. I lifted my left leg to enter the simulator, just as I would do in an R44. My eyes were drawn to the custom anti-torque pedals. Yes, it seemed exactly like I was sitting down in an R44. After adjusting my position in the seat, my hands naturally went for the cyclic and collective. Again, I quickly recognized the precise engineering of the X-Copter flight controls.
Touch and go
The SIM instructor pushed the power button, affectionately called the "touch and go" button. A mere two minutes later I realized why that little silver button got its nickname when the simulator cockpit lit up, fully functional. A brilliant array of 60-inch high-definition monitors displayed in astonishing detail the hangars and airport I had just walked through. Fluid graphics were rendered in great detail. I immediately was twisting the throttle, pulling the collective … and hovering. Two minutes from power-off to full operation seems quick for high-powered computing. That’s a big advantage in a world where time is money, a world that certainly includes helicopter flight training.
Graphics “outside” the cockpit are rendered in such great detail that it’s easy to get distracted from the reality rendered inside. Two HD touch-screen panels in the cockpit display flight instrumentation in a variety of formats. I asked for round dials for my “flight,” but at the click of a button the panel configuration can be changed to display a number of avionic simulations, such as the Garmin 500H. In addition to the instrument panel displays, also sat an iPad with ForeFlight Mobile, displaying geo-referencing data.
Power failure and other challenges
Soon I was cruising along northbound towards Flagstaff at 10,500 MSL … when I suddenly lost power. The instructor had set me up for an engine failure from his station tablet connected via Wi-Fi. Immediately I lowered the collective to maintain rotor RPM and established a 70 KIAS glide. I adjusted the collective to maintain 100 percent RPM and immediately began scanning the detailed terrain for a good landing spot. Unable to restart, I scanned the touch-screen panels, turning off unnecessary switches and the fuel valve. The screen technology is fantastic and clearly provides great procedural training. At 40 feet AGL, I began cyclic flare to reduce descent and forward speed. Just before touching down, I forwarded the cyclic to level the ship and raised the collective for a cushioned landing. The machine worked flawlessly. The graphics were incredibly detailed, allowing for maneuvers like autorotation and hovering.
On the return flight to the Prescott Municipal Airport (KPRC), the instructor changed my flight from day to night, and then added some wind and rain for good measure as I shot the ILS into KPRC. Entering the ILS, I utilized the touch-screen panel to dial in the VOR and the ILS signal to maintain my direction and glideslope. Then I performed the landing flawlessly—like a “Rotorcraft Pro.”☺
There is no doubt that X-Copter delivers a great procedural training platform for both VFR and IFR flight. Now, if the company will just put all their resources to work and develop one of those "touch and go" buttons for my coffeemaker….