View Full Version : Simulators...

17th Mar 2004, 14:03
Not quite sure where to post this. Right, here we go.

I was reading about people building their own cockpits for flight sims and my mind jumped into overdrive. Iíve got a few questions that hopefully a that those in the know maybe able to help with. I know there is a Trident simulator down near Gatwick, are there any others available to the general public (isnít there an ex-RAF F-4 simulator up north somewhere?).

And now for the questions:

1. I know the real simulators are sometimes more expensive that the actual planes, but does anyone know actually know how much they cost (say the 757 quality used by BA down at Cranebank. Or is it Waterside?)

2. I know pilots always go on about how well the actual aircraft behaviour is replicated in the sim, but what sort of hardware & software is responsible for all these complicated calculations? Iím guessing it isnít the latest PC hardware.

3. How are different situations programmed (landing, emergencies etc) in a sim ride, how does the operator interact with the hardware/software of the simulator? Is it a windows type program (Microsoft God forbid?), or are they programmes written but the simulator builders themselves and need a PhD to operate?

4. Who make the simulators? Do Boeing make the 737 simulator for example?

5. Are the instruments within the simulator the same instruments as used on the real aircraft, just motorised, or am I way off the mark?

6. How much does it cost to operate these things (per hour say), do they go U/S frequently?

7. If you were that way inclined, and had enough money, could a member of the general public buy one?

8. Are special projectors used for projecting the image, or is it stuff that is commercially available?

9. Is it true that Microsoft 2004 is getting close to the image quality of real simulators these days?

10. What about military simulators, can the public get hold of old (or new, albeit dumbed down) such devices, or is that just silly?

Just wondering. Thanks for any replies.


Empty Cruise
17th Mar 2004, 15:11
First of all, in these trying times of terroism, I think it most unlikely that any SIM manufacturer would sell a sim to anyone else than a TRTO/FTO :ouch: But give enough hard work etc. etc. - it might be done.

3) Most are touch-screen-operated. You may have a flash-card or a disk to load WX scenario, position, set-up etc. so you do not have to enter it all over again every time you have to do that particular session.

4) FlightSafety is a major manufacturer, as is CAE. Boeing has a simulator sub-division called Alteon, but I do not know if they make or just operate simulators

5) Same instruments, however with glass cockpits, the difference becomes less important.

6) Depending on how many hours you buy, you may dry lease a sim from 300-450 EUR/hr. Probably means operating cost is somewhere near 180-280 EUR/hr. :confused: - your guess as good as mine. But these prices are based on simulatioon centres operating up to 15 simulators at a time, so some of the cost is spread over many sims. Would probably cost 15-20% more to operate a sole example.

If they go U/S often? Same as your car - depens on age! Some exhibit strange behaviour and bizarre errors - but it can be cured with a (time-consuming) re-set. And as all machines, they need both scheduled & unschduled maintenance.

8) High-grade projectors are used, some capable of 200 deg. coverage from a single source. It is commercially available, but probably not in your local Hi-Fi shop.

9) Depends on your processor, video card & RAM, screen size etc. - but it is not THAT far off the mark. Quality og e.g. runway texture when lokking 100m ahead is close, but close-up, simulation of WX phenomena and mapped airports, the difference starts to show.

...eeeerrrr - I think....


17th Mar 2004, 16:43
Would only care to comment on a couple of your questions, as my background is in electronics / computing

1/ My understanding is that a full six axis Simulator suitable for training line pilots is in the region $17 - $25 million each, depending on the type, which compares very favourably with the cost of a real aircraft.

Where the real saving comes is in the operating costs, and of course that you can subject the pilots to situations that you would not want to replicate on a real a/c, such as engine failure just after V1

Clearly you also donít have all of the real operation costs, such as fuel, airport landing fees, on-route charges, or maintenance overhead

2/ The hardware used to be custom made, i.e. very expensive custom hardware, and use of Industrial strength software running UNIX for example.

Given the advances in computer hardware and software in the general business world, some migration is taking place to COTS (components off the shelf), but itís still in the realms of hardware that you might find in a computer room of a corporate bank, rather than on an average desktop.

Failure is not an option, because

A/ It devalues the whole simulation experience (rather defeating the object of it all)

B/ the airlines need pilots to be trained on tight schedules, so they cannot afford any wasted time.

My understanding is that the Utilisation of a simulator thatís in demand can be higher than the ďrealĒ aircraft on a daily basis, so could be operating 15 hours plus a day, so your average computer hardware lacks both the raw processing power and reliability needed.

3/ Airbus and Boeing do not themselves make simulators, the main players in the market are

Thales http://www.thalesgroup.com/ga/business_zone/aerospace/simulation.htm

CAE http://www.cae.com/

And a lot of the visuals for flight simulators is from a company called

Evans and Shutherland http://www.es.com/

I understand that the Global market for high-end six axis simulators is less than 20 units per year!

Trust this helps.


17th Mar 2004, 17:52

Oh my, my first post. My name should explain it all. As far as the MS2004 stuff goes, check out http://www.avsim.com. In there somewhere you should be able to find "Project Magenta", (a company thats make products to turn lots of PC's into a cockpit).
Plus there some very extensive home-built cockpits which look good to my SLF eye. Right now, the nicest plane for MS2004 in terms of simulation is probably the PMDG 737, see them at http://www.precisionmanuals.com

It's always good to hear what the real guys say about our toys. Almost always it's positive, however it's always assumed that we know they're just toys :)

18th Mar 2004, 18:32
Wonderful. Thanks for the replies, just what I was after.

All the best, w.

21st Mar 2004, 00:21
1) Depends on aircraft type as development costs need to be amortised across projected sales Ė typically US$ 15M Ė US$17M is a reasonable ball park figure.
2) The latest simulators do indeed use PC technology, although these industrial PCs are at the high end of the market.. The software is derived from aircraft data for flight, performance and systems simulation. Other areas, motions, atmosphere, IOS etc.. are produced by the manufacturers.
3) All scenarios are programmed in and yes, the latest do indeed run unders Windows OS. You do indeed need a high level of skills to maintain and modify, but operation is not as complex.
4) Thales, CAE and Flight Safety are the major commercial players
5) With the exception of pressure and some standby instruments ( e.g. Stdby compass) the instruments typically are as aircraft, although some attempts at replicating instruments has been attempted.
6) Operational costs are dependant upon location and number of sims operated. With very high upgrade costs (e.g.EGPWS) being required to keep sims at Level D standard the operating costs are around US$ 350 per hour.. As to reliability, the industry/manufacturers standard is 98.4%. Operators like ourselves achieve 99.9% with average utilisation of 20 hours per day.
7) Only if you are rich!!!!. (The Sultan of Bruneiís brother bought an A340 and an Apache)
8) Yes. The projectors must be capable of high brightness and calligraphic lights capablity.
9) & 10) Ė I donít know


22nd Mar 2004, 01:10
If you are serious about buying a 'motion' sim, the only realistic (and i use that term loosely) option would be like an engineering sim like the ones produced by Merlin, see www.merlinsim.com.

Full motion sims as used by airlines cost millions to buy, and the same again to maintain. But I have no doubt that if you can afford it, they would be happy to sell you one. See GECAT or Thales for details.

Modern flight sims have reasonable graphics, but interms of crew training the outside realism isnot incredibly inportant. MSFS may actually be more photorealistic, but it doesn't simulate the complexities of a 3D world. More of an eye candy product.

If you want to build a cockpit mockup, there a loads of products available to do just that. See sites like projectmagenta.com or co.uk or something, thay will point you in the right direction.

It might nearly be cheaper to buy a real one though!!

Good luck