There are two products that will deploy in March 2020, and two others planned for later in the year, depending on what customers want. Each scenario is tailor-made to the airline’s specific procedures and verbiage.
The first airplane is a 737 NG/Max hybrid, meant to allow rehearsal of nearly all time-critical scenarios, including Trim Runaway. There are also several variations of a Rejected Takeoff (RTO), as described below. Others will soon follow.
iPad Response Trainer
The iPad Pilot Response Trainer will go on to the pilots’ device and allow them to learn and practice life-threatening, time-critical scenarios in real-time. They’ll first go through a scenario where it shows instructions on what to do, highlights where the pilot needs to look or control and waits for the response. The pilot moves the control, then the next step flashes with instructions near the control. This is the “learning” phase.
Once the pilot is comfortable with how the device works and performing the required control inputs, they move to “Practice,” which is where the hints and flashing controls still show, but each step must be completed within a prescribed time. Otherwise, a message offers that they “Must complete steps quicker. Start over? | Exit scenario.”
The final phase is “Test Yourself,” where there are no hints. Once the stimulus occurs (engine fire, trim runaway, tire burst on takeoff, and others). the pilot will have a maximum time to make the right decision then execute that decision correctly.
Some scenarios test two skills: decision making and execution.
RTO is the best example of this. The jet is rolling down the runway and has a window open up. If it happens below 80 knots, aborting or continuing are acceptable responses. Reaching up to close the window, at least for the pilot flying, is not. The sim allows the pilot to reach up and close it but will display a note saying “Not recommended: abort (if below 80 kts) or continue”. If the pilot is below 80 kts and decides to reject, he must do so in the correct order and within the maximum time limits to score a pass.
VR Response Trainer
The iPad Trainer is great for getting pilots to navigate rarely-used decision trees and actions. Virtual (VR) reality allows them to step inside the simulator and to build muscle memory while learning and rehearsing.
This version operates nearly identically to the iPad Response Trainer but through a PC-connected VR headset. We are currently testing the stand-alone Oculus Quest, which has a built-in computer and requires nothing but a charging cable. This will improve reliability and reduce costs. Early results suggest that we will be able to use the device with reasonable frame rates and latency, two important measures for the user experience.
The iPad Pilot Flow Trainer, and its related VR Pilot Flow Trainer, will allow pilots to master cockpit flows from preflight, through takeoff, cruise, landing, and shutdown. Aircraft behavior is modeled accurately enough to provide a powerful learning experience.
We know FAA approval is needed to alter simulator requirements. However, a good case could be made that this tool, with it’s ability to provide recency and frequency, is effective at a reduce cost compared to using a full-motion simulator.
An AI “Pilot Flying” or “Pilot Monitoring” fills in according to the scenario.
This is a mode where pilots can practice responses to different scenarios with varying stimuli that occur at varying times. They would be the airline’s programmed scenarios and variations since every airline has slightly different verbiage and variation.
Scenarios include takeoff, go around, inflight fire, rapid depressurization, evacuation, trim runaway, and so on. Each one has entry conditions and other settings that start with a default but can be set either by the pilot or airline management. For example, on takeoff, there are several distractions (stimulus) possible: engine fire, tire blowout, windshear, takeoff configuration warning, etc. The pilot must make the right decision and then execute it properly to “score” a pass.
Settings allow rehearsal of the same or different scenarios and or distraction but at different airspeeds or configurations. What if Autobrake RTO is deferred, for example? In that case, the Antiskid switch will be off, and the pilot must use manual braking.
We’ve developed our own flight code to make aircraft handling match the mission, namely to be easy and intuitive. It has been designed with the ability to make it more or less responsive depending on the scenario. For example, aircraft response to trim condition is such that a pilot will need to trim, but that can be turned off, so the airplane stays at a given pitch when the wheel is released.
The basic engine indications respond to power input. They mimic spool-up delay, and the actual thrust is tied to N1 percent, so the airplane responds more realistically accordingly.
Where the iPad screen makes things too small, bright text near relevant gauges is overlaid to make it visible.
The appropriate lights respond to a press-to-test, and many lights respond correctly to system conditions–a number that will increase over time. The full fire panel test is a good example of how system operation can be incorporated to teach how different system failures look and respond. This would be used in a classroom setting.