Flight simulation is an integral part of the aviation industry and the Aeronautical Science degree program at Embry-Riddle, deriving its purpose through creating more proficient and experienced student pilots while reducing costs. To the scientific community, the focal point of flight simulation is its effectiveness in properly developing pilots.
The fidelity of flight simulation is determined by the Transfer Effectiveness Ratio (TER), the types of learning used in conjunction with flight simulation, the application of resources and the level of participation by flight instructors, and its ability to be used in crew development.
Additionally, the United States Military has invested in research focused on the Air Force’s flight simulation usage, and will be inspected to introduced Air Force bound students to the work done at the Air Force concerning flight simulation, and give more context to the rest of the student body concerning flight simulation fidelity.
The initial attractor to flight simulation is the opportunity it provides to pilot to sharpen their skills at a lower cost than flying. A more important aspect of flight simulation is its ability to effectively and efficiently develop a pilot’s skill set.
This facet of flight simulation is what has captivated the aviation community’s attention in recent years, and is central to discussions amongst students whose curriculum includes the True Course Simulations program.
The effectiveness of flight simulation depends on the proper application of the instructional resource. In general, a large facet of application in any subject is the type of feedback one uses to best maximize their development.
A study that compared the effectiveness of different types of feedback for beginning pilots who were learning to land in a simulator by staying closest to the glideslope to try and find what type of instructional feedback was best suited for flight simulation.
It determined that self-controlled concurrent feedback helps learners to more quickly attune to the informational variables that allow them to control the aircraft during the approach phase.
The cost of self-controlled concurrent feedback is creating an environment in which a student feels comfortable and incentivized to ask for help from an available instructor, a project in and of itself due to the amount of resources needed to achieve an environment.
The use of flight simulators by flight training organizations depends on the intellect and maturity of the Flight Training Operators. Generally, in the aviation industry, the rate at which these simulators are maturing technologically is not being matched by the maturing of their instruction framework, meaning that the resources can go underutilized or become misapplied.
The Lund Institute of Technology set out to observe the use of Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) simulations in the development of pilots. They found that a seamless introduction of the new aspect of the course was achieved through flight instructor’s time and resources they had dedicated into planning and preparing the training sessions and material.
The few problems that surfaced due to TAA Simulator usage during introduction were mostly mitigated by the time of the first flight.
The study concluded that the use of flight trainers with TAA systems can prove to be beneficial if early and extensive involvement of flight instructors in planning and preparing the resource into curriculum is properly executed, all while mitigating any negative impacts the medium of flight simulation may have on the training.
The aspects of manual flying skills, automation-related behavior, and risk-taking all require more research within the medium of flight simulation.
At Embry-Riddle, this challenge is overcome through the employment of the tutors at the flight lab, smart simulation habits and knowledge of the technical aspects of our simulators, and proper contemplation and connection-making with flight and ground school through discussions with your instructors and reflection on the curriculum.
However, this depends on an environment in the flight lab that is welcoming and stimulates development, tutors that are educated, qualified and understanding of the topics discussed in this paper, the simulation program itself, and student frustrations, and welcoming. It also depends on the student to responsibly develop and make connections to the rest of their teachings while being conscious of the topics discussed in this paper relative to True Course Simulations.
The military has also expressed interest in the fidelity of flight simulators for pilot training. Their mindset for determining this is requiring performance to improve as a function of practice within the simulation. In air-to-air combat training, it was shown that students who received simulator training performed better through quicker first shots, more valid shots, and less missed shot opportunities.
In another instance, negative transfer effectiveness was displayed when the pilots flew A-10s that were configured differently than the simulator. This is a critical pivot point in the discussions concerning the TCS programs. A station has multiple physical simulation components that are certified by Cessna, but is it enough to combat the possibility of a negative TER due to a lack of an entire physical flight deck?
Also, the virtual cockpit within Prepar3D V1.0 is not a direct replica of the Cessna 172s with NAVIII ratings that we use at the flight line. The aircraft reacts to inputs by the pilot and external factors in a perfect, calculated way, where the actual mechanical actions exerted in real life may require some intentional effort to alter some of the training picked up through TCS. This is where being a smart student comes into play.
The evaluations suggest that flight simulation is effective for training for Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface combat. For the Two-versus-Many training, the flight simulator bridged the gap in training and sharpened all their skills, including the facets of the responsibility that are deemed by the military as NAT (need additional training).
On the flipside, air combat maneuvering, visual lookout, gun employment, and basic fighter maneuvers were scored better in the pilots’ in-flight continuation program than in the simulator program. Air Weapons Controllers (AWC) improved in every aspect of their skill set through simulations.
This suggests that for a student pilot, simulation is an extremely attractive option for improving on a unit where a lot of practice is required but not readily accessible at the flight line, such as power off 180o.
The Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) chapter of the Air Force attempted to provide more insight on the shortcoming of the aviation research community in the availability of TER data. Their research set out to measure objective data and quantify its effectiveness by measuring improvements on outcomes and skill proficiency, along with expert observation data and user opinion data.
The results showed that flight simulation was considerably beneficial in pilot training, even when considering learning curve differences between different environments, only partially controllable tasks, lack of life-threatening consequences, and a highly trained participant pool.
Taking into account the financial benefits, the optimized environment that a DMO and that ERAU possesses to properly utilize resources available, the ability to quickly replicate tasks, and the training gap that is presented with live-fly exercises, flight simulation is certainly an attractive and viable option.
Flight simulation is effective in assisting pilots in their development of both hard and soft skills. The research presented leads to discussion concerning the value and fidelity of True Course Simulations, the course that Embry Riddle Aeronautical University uses to supplement flying skills and act as a bridge between Ground School and Flight School.
A short application of the research presented in this paper to TCS can give legitimacy to program, give the context through which it can be used, curb the complaining of the program within the ERAU environment, lead to more skilled and mature student pilots, and most importantly, give content and context through which healthy discussion concerning True Course Simulations can occur.