But in some respects these processes have gotten much easier and more exacting. We have become dependent on available technologies to make defeating the law of gravity easier. On demand weather forecasting, at home, on your PDA, and at Flight Operations, plus in cockpit weather displays show us the surrounding conditions. Pilots use PDA software to almost instantaneously calculate the helicopter’s performance.
While in flight you are monitored by Air Traffic Control, radar and, mission changes can be easily reprogrammed via your GPS with the push of a few buttons. At post-flight notes can be entered into a PC so all may learn from your mission to better understand individual mistakes and or good performances.
With all of this technology at our fingertips, why are accident rates remaining the same? (Figure 4) Could it be as basic as a lack of individual pilot skills or inability to perform hand-eye coordination tasks, due to the lack of adequate training? Or, maybe, the lack of basic decision making processes or skills or a combination of both?
Flt Hrs. 100K
Figure 4. Accident rates vs. hours flown If this is the case, it may come down to the individual trainer or training. If so, how can we affect both while maintaining mission integrity and increasing the overall safety margins?
Across the board, Standardized Training must be introduced to each new, mature, and advanced pilot, including instructors.
A recent issue of ROTOR discussed the ongoing issues of Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS)². It attempted to identify whether these indeed exist within the HEMS community as a crisis in safety or whether that is just a perception ?
Principle Inspector (PI) can provide to HEMS operators a review of pilot and mechanic decision making skills, procedural adherence, and crew resource management (CRM).
Also, FAA rule makers have recommended raising the Day & Night Visual requirements for VFR flight in Class G airspace for all HEMS operations. FAA notice 8000.293 makes numerous recommendations to the air medical community, most of these focusing on training and equipage. If HEMS is serious about safety, they should review the notice to see how it applies to the operators.
Both new HEMS and earlier Air Medical Services (AMS) Accident Analysis places much of its emphasis on training. It is recommended that training focus on virtually every individual who influences the conduct of HEMS – Flight Ops – Pilots – Maintenance – Flight Crews – Supervisors – Managers. Safety takes a commitment Top Down and Bottom Up. It should include training that emphasizes operations in instrument and marginal weather conditions, night operations, mountain operations, mission-specific training, and aeronautical decision making.
Simulating the YES Factor Just one of the many dilemmas within simulation is how to accurately model the equipment to be trained and achieve realistic and positive training. This must be accomplished correctly without marginalizing the full mission effectiveness of the equipment and instill, not only positive feedback to the pilot, but must also be a fidelity that puts the YES Factor (YF) into the training. When correctly done in the past, this has always come with a hefty acquisition cost. And because of that those devices are not readily available. Plus even with a full fidelity Level D simulator the total YF cannot be satisfied. The old saying is, “flying is a trade-off for simulation and simulation should be a trade-off for flying”; if both are done correctly. Because training is the most difficult task, as it requires individual-to-individual involvement, subjectivity could be a hindrance. Simulation will bring back the overall standardization that is required. At this standardized level, simulation will refine the skills of the aviator that then can be displayed in the aircraft.
The simulation required must sustain environmental, flight, and mission realism. It must immerse an individual into an accepted state of animation that is acknowledged both mentally and physically. If not, the pilot could reject the immersion and may start doing things he would not normally do in the helicopter. Stimuli ³ that is required but not limited to:
Visual: High quality visual are required; 80% of the information perceived by a pilot is through the eyes.
Motion: The somatosensory (seat of the pants) system receives sensations that are needed.
Vestibular: Working with Visual and Motion informs the pilot about his relationship to the earth’s surface.
So, if you want the pilot to perceive something, or better yet learn it, he must be stimulated. Stimulated in a way he would be when flying the helicopter and doing the tasks he would be required to do.
To Train is not the Question; How to Train is
Perplexing: There is a system today that will answer the training challenges of today. The system is economical as it requires limited facility requirements and is reconfigurable to accommodate the training tasks of most helicopters. The Helicopter Vocational Trainer (HVT) employs a Virtual Head-Mounted Display system that literally displays information over the full viewing range, everywhere the user looks. The visual system covers real-world scenery, dynamic cockpit controls, the helicopter structures (inside and outside), and an active instrument panel. (Figure5)
Figure 5. Virtual mapping of Cockpit, Instruments, and Controls Because the simulation models, visual database, and aircraft cockpit structures are all in the software domain, the HVT is a truly reconfigurable simulator, capable of being adjusted to represent most any helicopter, in any environment, covering all rotary-winged mission training demands.
HVT’s key attributes include:
Small footprint for minimal facility requirements
Software-base aircraft and flight models, are easily changed for new helicopters
Visuals simulate day-night-adverse environmental conditions, Night Vision Goggles, (NVGs)
PC-based for low logistical requirements
Open network architecture to facilitate collective training
Another interesting HVT feature is that the total size of the exterior of the helicopter will be modeled. This is a tremendous safety factor when practicing the close-in tasks and maneuvers for confined area operation, mountain and roof top landings, urban and EMS training missions. Each of these activities, plus others, demand close maneuvering of the helicopter. The pilot must know if he has contacted any entity within the database that could cause the actual helicopter to crash.
Figure 6 denotes a digital scan of an H-3 Sea King. Thousands of polygons make up this model that entity within the database that could cause the helicopter to crash.
Figure 6. A total exterior scan ensures you are flying the size of your helicopter within the simulation.
Helicopter Vocational Trainer (HVT) The HVT is a systematic approach to equipping helicopter pilots with the skills based training needed for their vocational tasks in a safe training environment. By immersing the pilot in realistic training and in a synthetic environment that is faithful to the actual flight domain, the pilot can hone the skills needed for real-world operations. HVT is a series of focused synthetic scenarios or real time missions comprising highly detailed, stereoscopic imagery, covering applications and operations such as:
oil rig landing
ship deck landing
mountain and alpine flying
logging and hauling
urban operations for law enforcement
urban and rural emergency services
and many other tailored scenarios.
Overcoming the limitations of current synthetic training methods has been made possible by the convergence of affordable computing horsepower, compact personal visual systems, and the understanding of the physical models within which rotary-wing craft operate. By implementing the scenario within a lightweight helmet display system, coupled to head-tracking devices, many of the problems with conventional synthetic trainers can be eliminated. The visual system is designed to “paint” the image the pilot expects to see, regardless where the pilot is looking – so the visualization includes the aircraft interior, dynamic instruments, chin windows, green house, cross cockpit viewing and appropriate imagery outside of the helicopter – wherever the pilot looks.
Because the imagery is presented in a two (2) channel, overlapping format, it is stereoscopic. This allows the primary benefit of depth perception, which is critical for judging distances and remaining within the realistic safety “bubble”. Parallax error is also eliminated when using a stereoscopic HMD. Also, the design eye point of the visual scene is the HMD, thus adding to the realism and the YF of the immersion. (Figure 7)
Figure 7. The new HVT To complete the immersion experience, the pilot is seated on a representative aircraft seat, and holds onto cyclic and collective grips that feel like the actual aircraft (these are interchangeable for specific models), on a compact electric motion system. Vibration and audio stimuli are easily duplicated.
The combination of highly detailed (mission specific) scenarios with the immersion presented by the “virtual reality” simulator overcomes many, if not all, of the limitations of current synthetic training systems for helicopter vocational training.
The HVT approach is not intended to replace the current flight training methods, but to augment and enhance them. HVT is a bridge between flight training or type rating training, and “on the job” training in an actual helicopter – the difference, however, is that a pilot that has had the benefit of HVT has already experienced specific vocational scenarios in a representative helicopter, under all weather and visibility conditions, and is better equipped to optimize his or her flight “bubble” and decision-making skills. And, because the HVT training is performed on an affordable alternative platform, the amount of actual helicopter flying time (for skills development) could be drastically reduced.
The HVT is not designed to be a “pure” procedural trainer as there is no tactile support, i.e. no switches, knobs or dials to touch, turn or push. But, the HVT can support Ab-Initio training tasks in a generic, type-specific model. From initial transition training to refresher/recurring maneuvers, including instrument flight, the HVT can be a valuable asset in any scalable training program.
But saying that, the HVT is optimized primarily for developing the demanding skills a helicopter pilot needs after they learn to fly. In fact, the HVT approach is largely based on “representative” helicopter models – although any specific machine can be modeled, often the “representative class” of helicopter – light, medium or heavy – is all that is needed to impart the vocational skills. This is a key element in keeping the HVT affordable, as there is no prohibitive OEM data licenses required, and the vocational skills transfer is not impaired. HVT’s focus is “mission fidelity” and “aircraft fidelity”, and it has a sound basis –skills learned for a vocation are transferable to any helicopter platform, as they are in the real world.
Team Training Using HVT The VR environment opens another avenue for synthetic and immersion training hitherto reserved for the most expensive military systems – the possibility of networked team training. Because HVT units can easily be networked, a crew of two, three or more individuals can benefit from the synchronized VR scenario. For example, a winch operator, or a landing systems officer on a ship’s deck or oil platform, or a sensor operator on an emergency services vehicle, can all “see” the helicopter and its environment in an immersive experience, without actually being co-located in the simulator. Team training and rehearsal possibilities with excellent knowledge retention – learning – becomes practical and affordable.
The New Training Regime Before the advent of HVT, training a pilot for his ultimate helicopter vocation would have meant many, possibly hundreds of hours, of on-the-job practice in order to cover most of the permutations of environmental and mission conditions needed to build a well-rounded and well-trained helicopter pilot. During that phase of training, the pilot and his employer are exposed to the maximum risk of failure of man and machine.
In addition, the real world most times does not co-operate by providing the kinds of weather and visibility conditions ideal for training a well-rounded pilot. HVT scenarios, however, can be manipulated by the instructor to provide almost any “what-if” permutation of wind, weather, visibility, time of day, or degraded vehicle performance.
Conclusion: It is evident by this conference alone that our society has become dependent on helicopter services. It is also clear that we as a group are aware of the need, not only for the safety of flight, but for the overall safety mentality that should include all facets of an aviation “unit”. Our training philosophies must change, yet there is always a factor of affordability. It has been said, “if you can’t afford to train, you certainly can’t afford an accident”. Today’s technologies allow us to address both Affordability and Trainability. Now, our regulators must embrace the technologies that will allow us to train as if our Lives and Missions depended upon it.
In the recent Defense Helicopter article, David Harvey stated 4: “Remember too, that the 'conventional' sims we’re talking about, and which themselves are amazingly realistic only scratch the surface of the really complex training helicopter pilots must have to be economically useful in the commercial world.”
References 1. Meeting Paper- Iseler, Dr Laura, HATS Conference, June 2001