Cathay Pacific has just become the first customer airline for a revolutionary new simulator motion system that will transform what simulators can be used for.
Even full flight simulators (FFS), at present, are really just sophisticated procedure and systems trainers, although the aviation authorites pretend they can be beneficial to manual flying skills. But US FAA research says there is no evidence that manual flying skills can be taught in simulators - the skills simply do not transfer to the real aeroplane.
Enter Sabena Flight Academy - Development (SFA-D) with a simulator motion modifying system it calls Lm². Developed by aeronautical engineer Capt Filip VanBiervliet, it is based on a rewritten set of algorithms for simulating lateral motion and accelerations, eliminating the confusing sensory feedback that simulator motion systems currently provide.
The result is that all pilots can usefully practice high level manual skills like crosswind landings, and low-time pilots can aid their transition to a new type by performing some or all of their base-training touch-and-goes in a FFS that actually feels like the aeroplane.
Three years ago I "flew" an Lm²-modified Boeing 737 FFS, first with Lm² switched off, then with it operative, and this is what I wrote at the time:
"So that I could attempt manoeuvres that I knew would be almost impossible to 'fly' in an unmodified FFS, I asked for a crosswind and was given 30kt from the right.
I managed the take-off adequately, but on approach I deliberately displaced the aircraft well to the left of the extended centreline for Brussels runway 25L, so that recovering against the crosswind to intercept the extended centreline at about 1nm on short final would stress out the motion system and provide plenty of lateral lurches as I lined up the crabbing aircraft for landing. I kicked off drift at about the right time and tried to keep the lurching machine on the runway. It was a seriously inelegant attempt.
SFA-D kindly froze the system and put me back on the approach to do the same thing, but this time with the Lm² operating.
It was a transformation. The simulator handled like the aircraft would. Its reactions to control inputs were predictable and natural, killing the temptation to over-control. The crosswind landing under the same conditions was actually a good one, including the ground run down to taxiing speed.
Just to prove the resulting safe landing was not a fluke, SFA-D suggested I try starting on the approach to 25L and then do a late switch to 25R, but this time with 30kt crosswind from the left. It was a delight to do, and the landing was quite good.
Leaving the runway entailed a left turn through about 130deg, and the tiller allowed me to keep the nosewheel perfectly on the centreline all the way without any swinging or over-correction, or that sick feeling you get when your balance sensory organs don't tally with what you see. The latter may sound unsensational, but taxiing is one of the most difficult things to do in a simulator.
With Lm², simulator flying could actually become fun for the first time, and much less sweaty."