Space Imaging pictures of 12 key mountain passes added to training devices

Satellite imagery is being used for flight training in Alaska in a bid to improve safety in the accident-prone US state. Highly accurate and detailed simulations of key mountain passes, produced using data supplied by Space Imaging, are being used in training devices operated by the Medallion Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides free safety training to Alaskan pilots and operators.

The simulations are being developed by Anchorage-based E-Terra using Ikonos satellite imagery acquired by the Alaska Department of Veterans and Military Affairs for use in the Alaska Aviation Safety Project (AASP). Medallion has begun providing training on 13 PC-based training devices located across Alaska using the first two databases produced, representing Lake Clarke Pass and Merrill Pass.

Under the AASP, E-Terra is producing training modules for the 12 key mountain passes, most of which connect Anchorage with the Alaskan interior. Alaska is home to 10% of US commercial operators, but generates 35% of accidents, with a disproportionate number occurring in these mountain passes. The AASP is part of an effort to reduce aviation accidents in Alaska by 20% before 2008.

Funded by the US federal government, the Medallion Foundation began safety training for commercial operators in 2002 and works with 60 Part 135 and Part 121 carriers. In March, the organisation launched a safety training programme for general aviation operators, which has so far attracted 400 of the state's 11,200 registered pilots. Accident rates are highest in September, the peak hunting season, says Medallion.

The training devices, and a helicopter simulator, are used mainly to address visual flight rules controlled flight into terrain, but are also used by instrument flight rules pilots to polish their skills, says the foundation. Satellite imagery, draped over digital elevation models collected by aircraft-mounted interferometric synthetic-aperture radar, provides an exact three-dimensional simulation of the terrain, providing greater realism than the Microsoft Flight Simulation databases supplied with the training devices.



Source: Flight International