Safety And Flight Simulation

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Safety and Flight Simulation

Safety and Flight Simulation

In the past few decades there has been an increasing interest in the concept of safety as a means of dropping the potential for air accidents associated with flight control. Notwithstanding its recent appearance in the field of flight simulation, safety is receiving acceptance due to its critical role for improving safety performance.

Brief History

Even before the era of powered flight, aviators like the Wright brothers appreciated the value of a safe, controlled environment in which pilots could acquire the fundamental skills to control airborne vehicles. They and others utilized tethered gliders as training devices. Once it became clear that powered aircraft would depend on the pilot's control inputs to maintain equilibrium (Hooven, 1978), the race was on to design devices that would permit the acquisition of at least some of the required skills while still safely linked to the ground.

Early Efforts

Two of the earliest flight simulators were the Sanders Teacher and the Antoinette trainer (a.k.a. the "apprenticeship barrel"), both circa 1910. These two devices took very different design approaches. The Sanders Teacher was effectively a modified aircraft mounted atop a ground-based universal joint; by pointing the machine into the wind, the pilot could experience a sense of how the controls functioned. The Antoinette apprenticeship barrel had no effective control surfaces. Instead, the instructor(s) would physically move the device to introduce disturbances, which the student then compensated for using controls connected through wires and a pulley to the base. This can be seen as the first attempt to give the instructor some degree of control over the pilotage task presented to the student.

Despite such early efforts, simulators played little part in the selection and training of aviators during World War I. Both the British and French training systems were largely dependent on flying actual aircraft (although the French did utilize a modified monoplane, called the Penguin, whose sawn-off wings resulted in a craft that "hopped" along the training field at about 40 mph).

It was, in fact, the high attrition (and accident) rate of World War I flight training that engendered the field of aviation psychology. In addition to spurring the development of part-task screening devices to assess candidates' skills in presumed flight-critical domains (e.g., reaction time, coordination, vestibular-based orientation), the postwar era marked the genesis of a systematic, engineeringbased approach to flight simulation.

The Modern Era

The postwar years saw electronic technologies replace mechanical and pneumatic systems. Analog computers supported true computational solutions of flight equations to supplant the empirical "cheats" many simulators had employed. But likely the most significant advance in simulator technology was the introduction of digital computing. Not only did digital computers tremendously improve the fidelity of flight-dynamics modeling, they eventually enabled a new era of visual displays for flight simulation. (Lee, 2005)

Visual Systems

Although the critical role visual information plays in flight control has long been recognized, only recently have display technologies supported the simulation of compelling out-the-window scenes. Early attempts at such "contact" displays entailed surrounding the simulator with ...
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