Royal Air Force engineer officers are to be given "hands-on" experience of the effects of changing an aircraft's design parameters on flight and handling characteristics, using a specialised flight simulator.

The simulator, known as the flight-engineering systems trainer (FEST), has been supplied by Farnborough, UK-based Data Systems to the RAF Cranwell Engineering College's Department of Specialist Ground Training, and will be used by officers studying for a master's degree in aeronautical engineering. The deal was worth £400,000 ($640,000) to Data Systems, also contracted to maintain the equipment.

The FEST simulator consists of a two-seat motion-based capsule for a student and an instructor, high-quality visual systems and cockpit displays, and force-feedback flight controls. "Use of object oriented [software] and commercial off-the-shelf technology wherever possible has produced a very cost-effective solution to the RAF's requirements," says Keith Newman, business-development director at Data Sciences.

The FEST's elements include:

- The flight model, which controls the behaviour of the aircraft. This is a generic set of parameters which can be used for most aircraft, but additionally the system has default settings modelling five types, including the British Aerospace Hawk trainer;

- cockpit displays;

- "outside-world view", providing visual and navigational cues analogous to the Cranwell airfield;

- six-degree-of-freedom motion platform;

- instructor station, with a notebook personal computer which can be used in or out of the simulator.

A similar device, the MP520-T, developed by the UK's Merlin Products, was installed at London City University in 1996 (Flight International, 9-15 October, 1996).

Source: Flight International