AERO INDIA: HAL, CAE open helicopter simulator centre

Bangalore
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Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Canadian flight simulator producer CAE have formed a joint venture helicopter simulation facility in Bangalore.

The two companies are equal shareholders in the $64 million Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF), says joint venture CEO CD Upadhyay. Of the start-up funding 30% came from the two partners, and 70% from debt.

The main training facility of HATSOFF is a roll on-roll off full motion level D simulator, certified to EASA standards. Different cockpit modules to be interchanged in the simulator.

The only module now present is for the Bell 412EP. A module for the HAL Dhruv advanced light helicopter has been developed, and will be ready for training both civilian and military pilots from 1 May. A module for the Eurocopter Dauphin 365N3 will ready by July 2011, and a module for the weaponised Drhuv by March 2012, says HATSOFF.

Training environments focus on those found in India, such as urban environments, deserts, jungles, mountains, and the sea.

Upadhyay foresees about 60-70% of HATSOFF's revenue coming from the Indian military, a major operator of the Dhruv. HATSOFF also plans a simulator for HAL's Light Combat Helicopter, which is currently in development.

The companies say HATSOFF is the first facility of its kind in India, and stems from a 2005 Indian government report that shows 56% of helicopter accidents were due to pilot error, with rotary wing accident rates being significantly higher than for fixed wing aircraft.

Upadhyay says training in simulators is not only safer, but cheaper. "The per hour cost of training on a full mission simulator, world over, is generally below 55% of the per hour cost of flying on an actual helicopter," he says. Aside from the simulator itself, HATSOFF provides student accommodation, classrooms, and debriefing rooms.