December 02, 2013
Credit: Simulator: NASA
Though the FAA in early November published a final rule requiring U.S. airline pilots to experience and recover from full stalls in the simulator, key details needed to put the training into practice within five years are as yet unfinished and the topic of continuing debate.
Simulator manufacturers and airframers are eagerly awaiting a better definition of the required simulator and training upgrades, expected in early 2014 when the FAA releases an advisory circular and the first draft of proposed changes to its Part 60 flight training device rules. Part 60 defines the nuts and bolts of how simulator manufacturers will have to enhance their products to implement the training rule.
“We don't want to go it alone,” says Lou Nemeth, chief safety officer for global simulator and training provider CAE. “We participated in industry working groups that helped shape these things. We're all for this in the name of cost-effective safety enhancements. Safety is paramount. But [the upgrade] has to be meaningful and cost-effective.”
Chief among the missing ingredients are stall models or guidance for building them for an estimated 50 or more aircraft configurations and variants in use for Part 121 commercial air service in the U.S., and the minimum fidelity necessary for each model to respond closely enough to the real airframe to prevent “negative” training. To have the capabilities in place within five years, the deadline for the new rule, approximately 300 simulators will have to be upgraded at an estimated cost of $30 million, the FAA says. Developing the models could cost another $20 million.
Jeff Schroeder, the FAA's chief scientific and technical adviser for flight simulation systems, says the Part 60 changes will be based on guidance that “several committees of experts comprised of airplane manufacturers, simulator manufacturers, pilot unions, regulators and research organizations” have developed over the past three years.
“Key recommendations, such as 'How good does the simulator have to be to teach full stall recoveries?' have been tested in high-fidelity simulators with test pilots who have stalled the actual airplane and with groups of airline pilots without transport aircraft stall experience,” he says. “We also have several research projects underway on topics such as validating the learning objectives, developing a consistent method for creating stall models, improving the simulator cueing and evaluating potential benefits of extreme maneuvers.”
Implicit in the new rules, mandated by Congress following the 2009 Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 crash near Buffalo, N.Y., is that today's full-motion simulators are not representative of the real aircraft at pitch angles and significant sideslip angles beyond the stall, which is approximately an 18-deg. angle of attack (AOA) for a large single-aisle transport. Nor are the simulators required to be representative in that range.