NPRM, Flight Simulators, Initial & Continuing Qualification

Wed, Nov 28, 2007 — David Evans

Regulatory & Other Items

22 October 2007
FR Doc 07-4884 – Docket No. FAA-2002-12461

The notice announces changes that would (1) ensure the testing environment is realistic, (2) adds a new level of simulation for helicopter flight training devices, and (3) harmonizes with international standards for simulators. Other than certain visual scene requirements, which apply earlier, the ruling applies to simulators qualified after 30 May 2008.

The notice is significant on a number of accounts, not the least of which is the increasing reliance that simulators are slated to play in pilot training. Under the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) scheme, simulators will substitute for actual flying time in the air. In fact, a simulator session can substitute for actual flying for the final check ride before graduation (see Air Accident Digest, 5 September 2007, p. 20, “Bowing to the Inevitable”).

The notice is comprehensive, running to some 310 pages, making it the longest NPRM to appear in recent memory. The FAA explains:

“Proposed requirements include an accurate visual relationship between the scenes or airport models and other aspects of the airport environment, an accurate visual relationship of the aircraft nd associated equipment, scene quality assessment features, and control of these scenes or models that the instructor is able to exercise. The FAA believes these requirements are necessary to ensure realistic and accurate depiction of airports and visual scenes incorporated in simulators for FAA-approved training programs.”

In terms of new requirements, the following is cited as an example:

“An example of a revised requirement is the spiral stability test for airplane and helicopter simulators. Under the proposal, an additional parameter must be measured to achieve the required results. For airplanes, the spiral stability test must be conducted in an additional flight configuration (approach or landing) instead of being conducted in cruise configuration only. For helicopter, the final rule required the helicopter to maintain the correct trend during the spiral stability tests, whereas this proposal would require the helicopter to meet a specific roll or bank angle during the test.

“These additional parameters provide a more complete and accurate evaluation of the simulator, and ensure better replication of aircraft performance.”

Much of the NPRM is taken up with specific requirements by parameter. For instance, the programming of a helicopter simulator must incorporate:

“A flight dynamics model that accounts for various combinations of drag and thrust normally encountered in flight must correspond  to actual flight conditions’ including the effect of change in helicopter attitude, thrust, drag, altitude, temperature, gross weight, moments of inertia, center of gravity location, and configuration.”

It is not clear if the new requirements would enable evaluators to assess accidents after-the-fact in a simulator to assess what happened. For example, experienced U.S. Army pilots attempted to replicate the flight of a Greek CH-47D that crashed in September 2004, but they were unable to duplicate in the full-motion simulator the 30 degree left yaw accompanied by a 25 to 30 degree bank, let alone introduce a 60 degree nose-down pitch angle, during the accident helicopter’s final descent.

Comments are due by 21 December 2007.

Comments are closed.

Nolan Law Group