UK CAA recommends EASA approval of computer simulation to replace live trials for cabin safety certification

An existing software tool that models passenger evacuation performance for any given aircraft is accurate enough to replace real evacuation tests with simulations, says a UK Civil Aviation Authority validation study.

All that is needed to enable the simulation to be approved for aircraft certification, the CAA study says, is to decide on the protocols for its use in certification validation, and this would have to be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Because the program, AirExodus, is far more flexible a tool than real tests – which involve the need to consider injury to participants – it can be used for almost any scenario, the CAA says. But before the tool can be adopted, it says, it is essential to develop a set of protocols defining how it should be used to prove that an aircraft type or variant meets acceptable passenger evacuation standards.

The software should be used not only to test aircraft to existing standards, but to improve future cabin designs for better survival rates, the CAA believes.

AirExodus has been under research for more than a decade at the UK's University of Greenwich by Professor Ed Galea. Data used is based on passenger behaviour in real accidents as well as cabin safety research trials. Evacuation simulations run using AirExodus Version 3.0 predicted, within acceptably small variations, what actually happened in real situations when they were tested, the CAA reports. Similar variations occur when the same real-life trial is run several times, the CAA says.

The CAA's assessment concluded the software tool could:

* reproduce the evacuation performance of aircraft, passengers and crew in full-scale certification trials;

* be a safer, more efficient process than full-scale evacuation trials;

* provide a better insight into the actual [passenger evacuation] performance of the aircraft;

* be capable of easily and efficiently investigating a range of relevant certification scenarios rather than a single scenario.

The next step, says the CAA, is for EASA to decide how best to use a tool like AirExodus. Similar tools are already in use for marine and building safety approvals, the authority notes.


Source: Flight International