Decision to buy lower-fidelity Level B machine could have far-reaching impact

Industry opinion is divided on whether Lufthansa Flight Training’s (LFT) decision to order a new Level B flight simulator for the Boeing Next Generation 737, to provide recurrent training for German carrier Hapagfly, is a watershed or a one-off.

COPA Mechtronix W445
© Mechtronix

 COPA also has a Mechtronix Level B device, but the LFT order is "pivotal"

An influential customer, LFT has a fleet of 30 simulators, the majority certificated to Level D – the de facto standard for zero flight-time training. The Level B 737NG, built by Canada’s Mechtronix, will allow LFT to “target our services more precisely towards market demands” for training where a Level D machine “is not absolutely necessary”, and will be installed in its Berlin Schonefeld training centre in mid-2007.

Montreal-based Mechtronix says the LFT order vindicates its belief there is a market for lower-cost, full-motion “non-zero flight time” simulators in which all recurrent training can be performed. The Montreal-based company has sold a Level B 737NG to Panama’s Copa Airlines, “but Lufthansa is pivotal in pushing the technology that will become part of the base product”, says chief executive Fernando Petruzziello.

Recurrent training accounts for 70% of simulator use, says Petruzziello, but cannot be offloaded from Level D machines to lower-cost flight training devices because of the lack of training credits available from regulators for these fixed-base devices. This could be about to change, with the UK Royal Aeronautical Society leading a working group developing qualification criteria for a full suite of flight simulation devices that will be submitted for adoption by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Other manufacturers question the training value of lower-fidelity simulators. “Level B has been available for 20 years, but is only 6% of the active fleet,” CAE group president, simulation products, Marc Parent, told Flight International at Halldale’s WATS/RATS conference in Orlando, Florida. “The regulations have always allowed 100% recurrent training in a Level B, but it’s not a fully representative device. It is important to maintain fidelity. We can’t go backwards.”

Petruzziello accepts the minimum specification set by Level B “is too little to buy”, and says Mechtronix is instead developing a “100% simulated” product that will be certificated to Level B, but can upgraded to a “stimulated” machine using actual aircraft hardware to gain Level D approval. At $6 million, the simulated product is half the cost of a Level D simulator, he says.

Petruzziello believes the working group will streamline the requirements into zero flight-time and non-zero flight time, the former including simulated Level B and the latter stimulated Level D. Parent believes the new criteria will provide training credits for devices like CAE’s Simfinity integrated procedures trainer, which runs the same software as the full-flight simulator “and is fully representative of the aircraft”.


Source: Flight International