Low-cost simulation at the Royal Aeronautical Society

London 13-14th of May 1998

The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), one of the most prestigious associations of aviation professionals in the world, in it’s noble headquarters near Hyde Park Corner in London, organized a 2-day conference on the theme of new opportunities in flight training. At the very beginning of the conference Mr Rudy Frasca was put in the spotlight: the RAeS recognized his contributions to aviation training by their traditional award.

Rudy Frasca is 40 years in the flight simulation business as he receives the RAeS Award from the hands of the president of the society in recognition of his significant contribution to the aviation community. Mr Frasca, a well-conserved American businessman with the looks of President Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks with such speed, that half of what he says will remain a secret. He is visibly moved to be bestowed with the RAeS honours. In his address to the gathering, sternly looked upon by ranges of august predecessors from the oilpaintings covering the walls, Mr Frasca reviews the history of FRASCA , his company. It is one of those American dreams : started with next to nothing, now sold over 1500 flight simulators world-wide.

Frasca, like Frigidaire, has become the generic name instead of the brandname. The Frasca is the follow-up of the Link trainer, named after Edward Link, who invented this first simulator in 1924!

In his address Rudy Frasca preluded on the theme he would hammer on continuously (“frapper toujours”): in his view, PC-based simulators, are games which cannot replace in any extentent, professionally supervised simulator training, let alone experience gained by flying an aircraft. Nevertheless, to Frasca’s annoyance, FAA has recognized PC-ATD training time to receive 4 hours of flight time credit for the American general pilot license.

Professor Henry Taylor of the University of Illinois Institute of Aviation has lead an evaluation research project, in which the performance of two groups of students was assessed, one using PC-ATD + aircraft, the other using aircraft only as a training tool. For students prepared by PC-based flight training, it took nearly 4 hours less to complete the same level of proficiency as the aircraft-only group.

The issue boils down to the question whether, in the future will students spend more time behind a PC for their flight training, or in a simulator and in life aircraft.
Remarkably, FAA issued a circular crediting 10 hours of supervised PC-ATD time as 4 flight training hours, on the basis of quite limited research, even before this was completed.

U.S. Congressman Thomas W. Ewing has become the lighting rod for those opposing to allow flight time credit for PC-AATD training. On appeal of Frasca and others, the General Accounting Office (GAO=Rekenkamer) has been put on this trail. Although external funding was refused, the Illinois University Institute of Aviation, has initiated a study into the transfer of Frasca training time!

Professor Neil Johnston, of the Aerospace Research Group at Trinity college in Dublin, and Captain Susan Kavanagh of Aer Lingus, were among those who voiced the opinion that low fidelity simulation can be a preferred training route with educational advantages over high fidelity simulation. It is both cost and effectivity that stirs this discussion over the future of the flight simulation industry, where Zero Flight Time (ZFT) has become an accepted notion, –be it far from best practice!

As always in this disaster-driven industry, flight safety is called upon by parties to plead maintaining the status quo. Innovators claim both educational and economical edges.
Rudy Frasca : “Consider a student trained partly on a PC, crashes two weeks after the training with fatalities of all aboard” And , says Frasca: ‘with the computer you develop bad habits!’ These arguments deserve serious attention, but what do we say in reaction to this, knowing that modern aeroplanes are flown by computers more than ever ?

Neil Johnston’s HARI-principle is meant to describe the basic criteria for technical and procedural training: it should be Holistic, Applied, Realistic and Integrated! Both for content and procedure of the discussion, Johnston contributed with a masterly synthesis in his closing statement of this discussion.

The Royal Aeronautical society offered a podium for discussion of the issue of cost-effective simulation for flight training. Pilots, researchers, technicians and entrepreneurs were there to engage in the debate. The ambience being rather tongue-in-cheek, it was remarkable that issues where stated quite clearly, and differences of opinion were put on the table. This is to the merit of RAeS, the conference scheme of which is extensive and impressive: literally hundreds of events are scheduled each year in this aviation temple.

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