THE INDUSTRY OF FLIGHT SIMULATORS FOR PILOT TRAINING WILL SOON CELEBRATE ITS 100TH ANNIVERSARY. HOWEVER, AVIATION IS NOT MERELY PILOTS.
Until recently, there were no equally convenient and effective tool for practical training for a wide range of specialists involved in various sectors of aviation industry that would allow minimization of human factor influence due to repetitive practice of different normal and abnormal procedures and situations through simulations as close to reality as possible. At the same time, arrangement of practical sessions is one of the most important stages of training the personnel, as it is the only way to test and consolidate theoretical material learned in the classroom. An employee cannot be ready to work in a real airport unless he or she devotes sufficient time to practice. Currently arrangement of practical sessions within the industry is associated with a number of difficulties from registration of access permits for the students to visit the restricted premises, and accompanying the group, to provision of safety of the trainees under conditions of intensive production processes, as well as prevention of damage to expensive equipment and machinery due to their fault. Besides, there is no always opportunity to arrange a visit to the real airport at a time convenient for the students, stay there for a sufficient period and have enough time to practice all variants of working scenarios development with all diversity of aircraft types, airport ramps and ground equipment. It is often impossible to provide access to a real aircraft due to high cost of its downtime; sometimes it is difficult even for airlines, as an aircraft should be flying as much as possible. It should be also noted the in most cases the students are strictly prohibited to do anything themselves during such practical sessions, i. e. in fact, they can only watch and memorize what and how experienced operating employees do. This all leads to the fact that in terms of finances and organization, practical sessions are very complex and cost-intensive part of training the personnel. As a result many companies reduce duration and quality of practical sessions in order to spare the budget and finish training earlier, so that they graduate not properly qualified staff. Generally, the companies hope that more experienced colleagues will have enough time to share their experience with the new employees in the course of real work. No wonder it results in errors of the new employees, damage to equipment, and aircraft, accidents and delayed flights. Direct losses incurred by the companies in such cases, as well as indirect losses associated with insufficient safety level amount to hundreds of millions of euros. The problem of inadequate level of training the personnel is particularly acute today, when companies are striving to reduce their costs even more in pursuit of the common trend to make air tickets cheaper. Rather intensive personnel turnover within the industry, as well as growing competition also aggravate the problem.
WHAT IS VR TRAINING?
Emergence and rapid development of Virtual Reality (VR) technology marked a beginning of the new era in the field of vocational training. For the first time ever, we have an opportunity to create simulations for a wide variety of professions where the trainee is no more a passive observer, but an active participant of the happening events, and further development of situation depends on actions and decisions of the trainee. In other words, we gained an opportunity to train through action, full immersion and experiencing of working scenarios, thus obtaining full emotional and mental involvement. The result is a high efficiency of learning, even for a short period of time. VR Training allows practicing skills in significantly cheaper and safer way compared to the conventional training at locations of a real airport. There are no time limits for training except for those set by users themselves.
Advantages of VR Training in Aviation:
Lower cost of training compared to conventional practical training in a real airport
100% safe for students
Active & Effective learning via doing.
No need to arrange access to the real airport territory
No risk to damage expensive equipment
Repeat practice as many times as needed without consideration of expensive resources and time
Rapid switching between different types of aircraft and equipment
Ability to stop simulation at any moment and discuss the issues with a student
Simulate any light and weather conditions, as well as surface conditions
Practice dangerous incidents and issues
Make your theoretical lessons more exciting and raise students' motivation
Overall improvement of personnel training quality and, consequently, lower accident risks
VR TRAINING & ROI
Issue of return on investment in any innovative solutions is one of the key issues. Implementation of certain innovation often requires long and thorough search for supportive arguments. But in case with VR Training in air transportation sector, statistics of incidents and accidents in airports resulting in delayed flights, entire airliners brought out of operation, damage to ground equipment and injuries are literally self- explanatory. In reality, virtually any incident in the airport costs astronomical amounts of money for companies. Costs of incidents occurred due to insufficient practical training of personnel are very high. According to data of BOEING (Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents Worldwide Operations | 1959 – 2017), over 15 % of the total number of deadly accidents account for ground handling operations. If we add to this amount a number of non-deadly incidents resulted in damage to aircraft and equipment, statistics of ground accidents and costs of them are even more impressive. According to data of European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2016, 10,697 incidents and 7 accidents linked to ground handling operations were recorded. No doubt that these numbers are big enough to work on safety on the ground. Another strong reason to implement VR Training is a high cost of practical sessions. Moreover, it consists not only of direct costs to maintain operation of training centers, but of a huge amount of associated costs as well, such as organization of access and accompanying the students to the facilities, engagement of operating employees and existing equipment for the training purposes, business trips, loading the aircraft with service passengers (for airlines), etc. Today, when the industry needs to train thousands of specialists, it is easy to calculate that companies' costs of personnel practical training amount to millions of dollars. Obviously, if VR Training allows optimization of costs of personnel training and significant improvement of zero accident rate at a relatively low cost, this must be a gift for the whole industry.
THE PATH TO SUCCESS
Over the past few years, VR Training sphere has experienced an explosive growth; many companies and businesses have realized huge potential of the technology and undeniable benefit of its implementation. However, this formation period was also marked with growth diseases, and not all created products and solutions lived up to the hopes of professionals in the field of training. A rule of thumb states that VR content creators perfectly know the technology, but are not sufficiently immersed into the clients' business to offer and create most useful and viable product. At the same time, many large companies attempted to create internal VR development departments, decided that only in-house developers can ensure sufficient level of updating the tasks and searching ways for their solution. But such companies faced lack of experience in these non- core fields, difficulties in proper and efficient organization of work of developers teams, staff shortages and lack of motivation of these internal startups. It became obvious that creation of the product capable of tectonic shift in the industry is impossible without merging high competence in virtual reality, visionariness, innovativeness with deep understanding of aviation industry specifics, its theoretical and practical bases, knowledge of all existing industry standards and regulations, and, most importantly, experience of work in real conditions of a modern airport.