The impact of virtual reality on flight training continues to grow

Virtual reality is here to stay.

In December, I offered a window into how virtual reality was being implemented in flight training and suggested that it could be a critical tool in reducing training costs for the next generation of pilots. I couldn’t anticipate the overwhelming interest I would receive from readers eager to learn more. It only broadened my perspective on the importance of this technology in training in the future. Since then, two things have caught my attention that deserve an update. In February, Chris Koomen, virtual reality engineer and specialist at Air France-KLM Airlines Group, posted this viral presentation video produced by his service. A pilot in training could use the Oculus Quest 2 for business headset goggles and module for initial training on the 787.

How KLM Airlines uses VR training for pilots

I contacted Chris to understand how virtual reality is being used at airline level to train pilots. Koomen says he started working with virtual reality many years ago and his efforts caught the attention of his company, who asked him to help implement it for their training services. once they saw the potential. Currently, he creates 360-degree videos and photos, like the one he posts, and manages all the devices there.

In the video, he said he was actually in an office wearing the VR headset with the built-in preset proprietary content for pilots to use. Pilots can take the helmet home to practice on their own, or to familiarize themselves with the cockpit or to ride around, a much more efficient process.

How much more efficient?

“For Embraer cockpit training, they normally performed a cockpit start-up procedure for the first time in about an hour,” Koomen said. “Now they do it in 15 minutes because they already know the distances, how to start it, and all those procedures are done in the helmet.”

He said the airline has created a variety of scenarios and environments that pilots can also access via the internet, such as 360-degree videos of a crew making a landing, allowing the viewer to be completely immersed.

“We also sell it to schools. When the school trains, they train a cabin fire, for example, with multiple pools, fire safety marking, and jet deck training to connect the deck to the aircraft,” Koomen said. “We have a pushback simulator where you can simulate a pushback on a simple airport and smaller things like evacuations and gate training.” It seems like the possibilities are endless. Eventually, Koomen mentions, there might be a bigger use case for aircraft mechanics.

Part of the training, especially for pilots in recurrent training, is supplemented by iPad modules, which also allow them to carry out rounds or emergencies. Koomen suggests this could be more convenient for pilots who will no longer need to travel or go to the plane, which offers measurable steps towards sustainability.

What about crew training?

For the most part, aviation is a crewed profession, so I wondered how it would translate if pilots trained independently? He said the airline has already developed multiplayer scenarios that allow two pilots and an instructor to work together, such as a cabin fire.

“You have two helmets, two trainees and an instructor. The instructor lights the fire where and when he wants, and the trainees must act accordingly. But does the crew work well together? Koomen said while some were getting used to the new environment, the trainees adapted.

“The moment you set the fire, they see smoke fill the plane, the passengers cough and they hear the instructor – their adrenaline starts to rise. You will see them take action to activate their skills, talk to each other and work together to put out the fire before it’s too late.

Rules and Challenges

So that begs the question: how is it regulated? Koomen explained that the Dutch government aenables internal training tool. When the program was announced, the company said that the VR courses complement KLM’s existing training program and that it was trying to obtain EASA certification for the course, which would eventually replace some of the standard training components, such as classroom instruction, cockpit poster, and textbooks.

So, in addition to being a familiarization tool, it is part of the training, although pilots who are not yet comfortable with the configuration can opt out.

“The trainees can use it, but they don’t have to because there are also people who get lost while using it.”

Still, nausea seems to be one of the most manageable challenges. Managing device dataset and security presents a more relevant issue because many commercial headsets are industry agnostic and are designed for the broadest use cases. This creates other unwanted scenarios around data management and headset security that these new departments will have to anticipate.

On the other hand, as this new field develops, these challenges are also opportunities for people who want to get involved in the training industry, but not like before. Koomen said one of the biggest challenges to technological maturation would be graphic design, or better, game development. Training the next generation in these technologies will then be necessary. He said that’s why there are now a handful of public schools in Holland that introduce students to the aerial environment.

Embry-Riddle Success

The other thing that caught my eye was the progress on this side of the pond. around the same time, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University provided an update on its PILOT program. PILOT stands for Pre-flight Immersion Laboratory for Operations Training. The university created it to increase training capacity for students in the Daytona Beach Flight Training Department by increasing the efficiency of private pilot training.

The goals are to increase student throughput, improve student aircraft readiness, reduce overall training time, and reduce private pilot training costs. A semester after implementing VR technology, the university said that “a group of 58 flight students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University reduced the time it took them by more than 30% to make a first solo flight”.

Virtual reality can help you make better use of radios

Another feature of the program is a virtual air traffic control lab with multiple components that exposes students to aviation English at a more manageable pace with a guiding virtual instructor and allows them to practice on their own more late.

“In the final stage of radio training, students enter a VR flight to test their skills in Simulated environment for realistic ATC (SERA) training technology developed by a company called Advanced Simulation Technology inc. (ASTi). When they speak with ATC, the SERA system uses artificial intelligence software to react to what the student pilot says as they fly, correcting them when they make mistakes,” said the university.

At the time, Ken Byrnes, chairman of the flight department at the Embry-Riddle campus in Daytona Beach, Florida, said that “students who take our new training program are better prepared when they get on a plane. . They also have less anxiety and greater self-confidence due to their experience and understanding of what to expect on the plane.

When Byrnes presented an update to Air Charter Safety Symposium in April, he shared in a presentation for the university that early completions were on average 18% lower than the 2020-2021 median cost to complete the private pilot course. In addition, the students seemed better prepared, less anxious, and demonstrated greater radio proficiency.

As the industry grapples with a shortage of pilots, here’s a tool that, while it will take some tweaking in the way we do things, could make flying more accessible to future pilots. At the professional level, this could reduce the pressure on training services already at capacity and reduce training costs.

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