Creators of a flight-simulation trainer for rotorcraft pilots have obtained the first European certification for a virtual-reality system.

The trainer is designed to enable pilots to practice risky manoeuvres in a virtual environment, says the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

It has been developed by VRM Switzerland for the popular Robinson R22, and a version for the Airbus Helicopters H125 is in progress. “Pilots can now have simulator time credited to their flight training and benefit from the high training value of the device,” says VRM.

Both the R22 and H125 simulators have sling-load training options.

“Pilots should receive realistic training on simulators,” says VRM chief Fabi Riesen. “This allows helicopter operators and flight schools to fly more efficiently and safely.”

Riesen says a “lot of preparatory work was necessary”, with an evaluation programme involving several pilots – among them helicopter flight instructors and test pilots – of various nationalities.

R22 VR simulator-c-VRM Switzerland

Source: VRM Switzerland

Virtual-reality simulation with the R22 cockpit will allow pilots to practice risky operations

This evaluation “confirmed the suitability” of the virtual-reality concept for training purposes, says VRM, particularly for autorotation, hovering and slope landings.

Emergencies such as tail-rotor failure can be practised, the company adds: “The system also allows scenarios that are not feasible or too dangerous with a real helicopter.”

The concept features a head-mounted display, the Varjo VR-3, a virtual-reality cockpit and a motion platform. VRM says this allows pilots to be “fully immersed”.

It says EASA allows 5h of credit for a private licence and 10-20h for a commercial helicopter licence, depending on the training. Night-flight training is also credited.

EASA says about 20% of rotorcraft training accidents occur during practice of hazardous manoeuvres. General aviation and VTOL department head David Solar says qualification of the R22 virtual-reality simulator is a “further step” towards industry objectives to improve rotorcraft safety by 50% by 2028.

R22 VR sim external-c-VRM

Source: VRM Switzerland

EASA views virtual-reality training as an important part of its rotorcraft safety strategy

The authority had to adapt its processes – including use of special conditions – to handle qualification of a virtual-reality-based system, to ensure equivalent safety level compliance under flight-training device certification.

EASA flight standards director Jesper Rasmussen describes the virtual-reality approval as a “significant milestone” in simulator evolution.

“This evolution will make a wider range of cost-effective training devices available to complement full-flight simulators and is being driven in part by training needs for new VTOL aircraft,” he adds.