Before the real helicopter flight the trial lesson begins with an introduction in the simulator. “I can explain everything to the students, just like in a real helicopter, and hence I can see how people react. Doing this in the simulator increases flight safety significantly”, explains Lorenz Nufer, flight instructor at Mountainflyers. Caroline Schwendener reinforces: “I had a lot of respect before the flight. Through the thorough briefing in the simulator I was expertly prepared for this flight”. What has long since proven itself in commercial aviation is now making its way into the helicopter industry. And this at the highest level, as Fabi Riesen, CEO of VRM Switzerland, explains: “The team has the passion to build the best flight simulator in the world. Ambitious pilots are given the opportunity to experience real flying in the virtual world. As the cockpit and the flight behaviour correspond to the real helicopter, the pilots can directly apply what they have learned in flight. This way, the actual flight time can be used much more effectively”.
The virtual reality goggles provide the pilot with a three-dimensional panoramic view. Even shadow effects are reproduced realistically. The ingenious motion platform prevents nausea and contributes to „Full- Body-Immersion”, the pilot is completely immersed in the virtual scenery. “You can even feel which part of the skid first touches the ground during landing”, comments Christophe Niederhauser, an experienced helicopter pilot at VRM Switzerland, who is responsible for in-house quality control. Flight controls and servos, which generate control forces and vibrations, give you the feeling of sitting in a real helicopter. “We have found that for sustainable training, the haptics and flight behaviour of the simulator must match the real aircraft precisely. This maximizes the benefits for the pilots and contributes to increased flight safety, in addition to the other advantages of simulator training,” emphasizes Fabi Riesen.
The innovative team of engineers uses the latest technologies to develop their training solution and is committed to perfectionism. “Our VRM R22 simulator is probably the only one with a fully integrated governor function, including a rotating throttle grip,” says Hannes Diethelm, who is delighted with his engineering solution. Flight Assistance supports the flight instructor in teaching hovering. Just like in a real helicopter, individual control elements can be handed over to the student pilot. If the helicopter gets out of control at the beginning of the hovering lesson, the virtual flight instructor takes over and steadies the helicopter with utmost precision. In future, body tracking will even make it possible to operate cockpit control elements. “With an operable cockpit it is possible to master all exercises of pilot training. Especially being able to practice high-risk emergency situations will significantly increase safety in our flight operations“, forecasts Christoph Graf, owner and CEO of Mountainflyers Ltd. He has already been able to see how student pilots can benefit from the new simulator in their basic training: “Using the example of hovering, we have proven that student pilots can apply what they have learned in the simulator 1:1 in the helicopter”.
Regulatory bodies and authorities have recognized the need for new opportunities in the education sector. EASA, for example, is making efforts to approve new technologies for training and checking. “We strive to make a contribution to further increase the very high quality in Swiss helicopter flying. This should be climate-neutral, with zero emissions,” says Fabi Riesen, looking to the future. The cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil, the FOCA and other organisations shows that Swiss technology is also worldwide at the forefront in these areas. In addition to the VRM R22 trainer, which can also be flown at Heli Sitterdorf, Mountainflyers offer training on their VRM H125 trainer in Grenchen. Air Zermatt also uses the VRM H125 training solution. Further companies will follow. VRM Switzerland has entered into a strategic alliance with the innovative helicopter manufacturer Kopter in 2019.
The simulator enables training at PPL and CPL level. Young pilots can acquire the skills they need for commercial operations in demanding HESLO scenarios (Helicopter Sling Load Operations). Lorenz Nufer underlines the importance of new ideas: “We are working together with VRM Switzerland on innovative, scenario-based training for commercial pilots. The learning potential from the countless accident reports and behaviour patterns of pilots which lead to precarious situations in flight operations, is nowadays still not fully exploited. In the simulator, limits can be shown and alternative action strategies can be practiced”. “With the certification for operator and annual proficiency checks, the device brings the full benefit. Cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly,” adds Fabi Riesen.