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Simulators are an essential part of training, but have they always been?

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Simulators are an essential part of training, but have they always been?

Old 10th May 2019, 14:36
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Simulators are an essential part of training, but have they always been?

Simulators are an indispensable part of pilot training. Extreme manoeuvres can be practiced in a simulated environment without risk. Procedures and teamwork can be honed, and pilot assessments made without burning precious fuel. The more realistic the simulators are, the more relevant they become.

The BA 747 simulator was a small, room-sized box, perched on five spindly hydraulic rams. The rams moved the simulator in all three dimensions, and when fully extended it could reach a height of more than ten metres above the floor. The cockpit of the 747 was faithfully replicated in the box, and computer-generated images of the simulated world were projected onto the front windscreens. It was remarkably realistic.

It hadn’t always been like that.An excerpt from "Dancing the skies and falling with style."
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At Hamble, we were subjected to the loathsome Link D4 trainer. It was an enclosed plywood cockpit sitting on top of a set of large pneumatic bellows which wheezed asthmatically trying to keep in step with the movement of the joystick. The instructor sat by a pantograph recording the movements of the Link in red ink on a large piece of paper. It could be very disorientating, particularly as there was a time lag between joy stick inputs and movement of the Link. Once, I became completely unsynchronised with the infernal machine and panicked. I frantically whirled the joystick around and with a humongous fart, the bellows split, and the box crashed to the floor on its side, with the last of the air escaping in an exasperated sigh.

By the time I joined BOAC, the technology had advanced by leaps and bounds. Rudimentary hydraulic motion systems had been introduced, but computer-generated images had not. The VC10 visuals were provided by a small camera, linked to the movement of the controls, which moved over a large three-dimensional model of an airfield and its surrounding countryside. Little villages with churches, roads and fields were faithfully reproduced on a board nearly sixty feet long, fixed to a wall. The runway on the model was 10 feet long, simulating a 10,000 ft runway in real life, so everything viewed by the camera was magnified about 1,000 times. The board was illuminated with very powerful lamps to increase the depth of field for the small camera, but the heat from the lamps played havoc with the model. Once, the glue on a pipe-cleaner hedgerow melted, and it sprung from the board at one end. It was most disconcerting to fly around a two-hundred-foot-long hedge rising from a field near the airport.

The press was invited to the grand opening of this modern marvel. The VC10 taxied towards take off. The field of view was limited, and the image was blurred and jerky.

“You are number two for take-off.” the controller stated.

The VC10 turned the corner, and a horrific gargantuan monster was waiting on the runway ahead of them. A dead fly had been pinned on the centre of the runway with its multi-faceted eyes staring lifelessly towards the horizon.

The press laughed.

The fly was removed, and they took off. To simulate entering the cloud at two hundred feet, the camera was simply switched off.

At the end of the demonstration, the VC10 commenced its approach. The reporters peered through the windows to watch the landing. The camera was turned on again at 200ft. Two titanic tits materialised out of the gloom at the far end of the runway like barrage balloons. The centre page of Playboy had been taped on the church spire near the end of the runway, and the surprise of seeing those 100 metre humongous hooters shocked the press into stunned silence.

Last edited by Antiquis gubernator; 10th May 2019 at 14:38. Reason: typo
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Old 10th May 2019, 21:19
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This sounds quite promising!
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Old 10th May 2019, 22:44
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I did some training in a 727 sim with the camera-on-a-map system back in the early '70s. There was a lake on the map...and in this lake was an aircraft carrier. Nice to see someone had a sense of humor.

Also did early instrument training in a Link C-8 trainer. It was a hissing, lurching device with a tracker on a desk as you describe for the D-4 but ours had a plastic table top which could be wiped clean after the tracker left its trail of red ink.

After that came a DEHMEL DC6 sim. Fixed base, no visual. Something like this:

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Old 11th May 2019, 07:00
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One training exercise on the Link was to produce a Maltese Cross on the plotter. Still air, thank goodness, but timing and accurate turns to accurate headings were essential.
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Old 11th May 2019, 09:06
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It's bringing back painful memories
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Old 11th May 2019, 09:17
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Modern simulation is somewhat older than most people think.

The 1st type specific simulator was this Halifax in 1941

..and the 1st commercial simulator was this 1950 Redifon Boeing Stratocruiser

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Old 11th May 2019, 11:47
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The BEA Vanguard sim was not sophisticated. The only motion was in pitch. The visual display (camera/map model) showed only final approach - in black-and-white. It was so unreliable that most training captains didn't bother with it. The camera would get stuck, so although the instruments were confirming that you were accurately flying an ILS the camera maintained height before suddenly dropping - most disconcerting to watch as the 'aircraft' plummeted earthwards.
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Old 11th May 2019, 13:59
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Google "The Antoinette Learning Barrel" which was the earliest reference I could find when preparing a presentation on simulator training. It dates back to 1910.
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Old 11th May 2019, 14:05
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The BOAC VC10 SIM camera was black-and-white as well
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Old 11th May 2019, 14:58
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Had a sim for the Gnat, JP I recall had a "procedures trainer" ie no "motion". One of our number on 22 Gnat course built a cardboard procedures trainer in his room I recall
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Old 11th May 2019, 15:33
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Oubaas, that VC10 tale had me chortling!

Hve sims always been a part of trainng? Far longer than any of the examles above, that's for sure.

I have tried and faied to obtain a pic of the helicopter sim built by Igor Sikorsky probably in the late '30s which was a rig with horizontally mounted propellors electrically driven mounted fore and aft and laterally on a framework for roll control. It was suspended on a system of levers and the pilot's weight was balanced out by judcious application of weights and conventional cyclic and collective controls varied power to the very low thrust props.

It 'flew' in all axes and iirc could move a couple of metres fwd, aft, sideways and up/down in quite realistic fashion. I flew a replica at Helifest, Redhill in the late '80s and it was quite sensitive but easy and conventional to 'fly' if a little slow in response due simply to low thrust overcoming inertia.
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Old 12th May 2019, 01:34
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Culdrose 1961-ish.

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Old 12th May 2019, 11:45
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Ready made for a cap com I guess
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Old 12th May 2019, 12:00
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I did some training in MEA's 707 simulator in Beirut in the early seventies. Exactly as described by the OP - 3D model of the runway and surrounding landscape fastened to the wall and traversed by a low-def camera. It just about served if one's imagination was good.
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