New models of simulation technology have always given trainees the hands-on education they needed, but now with the spiraling costs of technological innovation in aviation, the perceived value of flight simulation technology has increased by many orders of magnitude. This appreciation for flight simulators has spawned new versions of this familiar training system.
Evolution in Aviation
With the unprecedented level of engineering sophistication of modern aircraft, it has become essential that trainees understand an aircraft’s layout well before they step into a real cockpit. However, upgrades in flight simulation technology is not restricted to sophisticated Air Force bases or corporate headquarters. Even private pilots of small planes like the Cessna can buy their own highly realistic kits from Pilotmall.
A Total Immersion Experience
The best illustration of the evolution in aircraft design and the corresponding evolution of flight simulators is taking a look at military aircraft. As these types of aircraft have benefited from advancements in computer technology, advancements in flight simulators have benefited from advancements in projection and visual technology.
Current military-based flight simulators offer pilots a total immersion experience. Although pilots only see and hear objects in a virtual environment, they subjectively feel and experience things the same way they would as if they were in a real cockpit. The technical name for this all-encompassing sensory-rich simulation is called a “fully immersive training environment.”
Since these virtual environments seamlessly replicate how real cockpits are designed, pilots actually have a sense of familiarity when they finally step into a physical fighter plane. As fighter planes have evolved, so, too, has the sophistication of flight simulators. For instance, since 1978, the US Air Force has flown F-16 fighters. Now as these staple models are being replaced by fifth generation aircraft like the F-35 from Lockheed Martin, a new generation of flight simulators is also being reinvented.
Avoiding Million Dollar Errors
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 line has a variety of models. The lower end one is around $197 million while the higher end one is about $236.8 million. These aircraft are not flown by the US Air Force alone but are also being sold to Canada, the UK, Australia, Italy, and France. They are also being sold to Japan, Israel, Turkey, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Naturally, air forces around the world interested in buying the latest military aircraft are also interested in getting highly sophisticated flight simulators for their pilots. It’s a logical step to protect their new investments. If the best possible training for their inexperienced pilots can be done in a flight simulator, it ensures that pilots who step into a real cockpit already have a very good idea of where everything is located and what they have to do as soon as they settle into their seats. Moreover, since these countries are buying different models of aircraft, the flight simulator can be reconfigured to replicate the variations in the conditions of any of the F-35 models.
The best way to appreciate the incredible sophistication of more current flight simulations models over older ones is to look at those now being designed to train pilots to fly next generation military aircraft. It quickly becomes apparent that comparing new models of military flight simulators to old models is like comparing the sophistication of Star Trek’s new generation Starship Enterprise with the original model portrayed in the nascent series. So when it comes to flight simulators, although things may have been fairly effective in the old days, they now border on the fantastic.