Updated: May 18
So you have decided to acquire a Flight Simulation Training Device (FSTD) to fulfill your training requirements. Now all you have to do is consider how you are going to evaluate it and get it appropriately qualified, if necessary, so you can start using it. Sounds simple but the approach you take will have a huge impact on how successfully the device enters into service, is easy to maintain and how your crews or customers value it as a training aid. Accepting any FSTD is a major undertaking in the programme and it can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have not done it before. The process usually involves a visit to the Training Device Manufacturer’s (TDM) factory (or its current location if it is pre-owned) for a period of testing, followed by further testing at your own facility once it has been delivered, installed and commissioned. This paper gives you a brief overview of acceptance and leads into two more detailed articles on Factory and On Site Acceptance.
Plan everything well in advance
“Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail” - this old adage is never more true when it comes to accepting your FSTD so understand as much as possible and plan everything in detail well in advance.
The Regulators and Regulations
Ultimately, the successful outcome of the FSTD acceptance process should feed directly into the Evaluation and Qualification activities undertaken by the regulators in order for you to gain the approved type ratings and pilot training credits your organisation requires. Without these approvals you will have achieved very little so start a dialogue with the regulator(s) you have chosen for your stated qualification(s) as early as possible, study the regulations and talk to them about the nature and evidence of acceptance testing they will expect to see long before you need to begin. Refer to the article on Evaluating FSTDs for a more in-depth analysis.
Likewise, start talking to the TDM as early as possible about the scope and level of testing you expect to undertake (a) at the factory and (b) on site and also understand and clarify what scope and level of testing they will carry out themselves in advance of your team arriving at their factory.
Study the FSTD Contract, Technical Specification and Minutes of All Meetings
Before you start accepting an FSTD, know and understand exactly what it is your company and your colleagues have purchased. Acceptance of an FSTD is by definition ‘a critical evaluation of everything that has been built in accordance with the agreed budget, the technical specification, the programme schedule and all the other recorded decisions made at various preceding contractual design reviews’. Acceptance should never be seen as an opportunity to introduce significant change and redesign of an FSTD, unless you wish to overspend your budget and overrun the schedule.
Acceptance Team Factors
Pick your acceptance team carefully and agree their availability with line managers. Avoid any potential clashes of personality. Aim to maintain this team together as one close-knit unit for as much of the testing schedule as possible. The team size will ultimately depend on the scope and nature of the FSTD equipment being accepted, the number of shifts worked per day/per week that is scheduled. Refer to the article on Factory Acceptance for more details on who should be in your team. The workload on the acceptance team throughout all acceptance must not be under-estimated; it is not a holiday.
Remember to book accommodation and travel arrangements for the team, gather any dietary needs, plan local transportation, inform the TDM of office space you will require for your team within the factory for the duration of factory acceptance, any other special facilities needed such as prayer rooms, IT support and so on. Also remember to find somewhere suitable in your facility for the TDM’s people when they come to your site for on site acceptance.
Your Responsibility as Operator
You, the customer, will test and accept an FSTD from either a TDM or a previous owner, but thereafter you become the owner and operator of that training device and it is then up to you to demonstrate to the regulators that adequate testing and the necessary due diligence has been carried out by your acceptance team. Thereafter and on an ongoing regular basis, you will have to demonstrate to the authorities that the FSTD has been maintained to that same standard and operational condition.
When purchasing a pre-owned FSTD, careful attention needs to be paid to its qualification/ requalification after it has been relocated to your facility. Never assume it will be requalified to the previous operator’s standards. There are some excellent tips on this subject to be found in the article ‘Buying a Used FSTD’.
What Kinds of Testing Should We Do During Acceptance?
As a rule, try to start off testing simple, stand-alone systems and then move onto the harder ones. This approach allows everyone to make a start on systems which really should work from day 1. Progress can be tracked and ticked off against the plan which does team morale some good and it allows your team to become familiar with the Instructor Station operation and other aspects of the FSTD equipment that will need to come to them naturally later on when more complex integrated testing starts.
Normally for a high fidelity FSTD, an acceptance team would aim to run a combination of the following tests during the stages of acceptance:
Aircraft Systems Acceptance Test Manuals - usually produced by the TDM and checked/approved by the customer, designed to interrogate and verify the correct operation of given aircraft systems in both normal and non-normal operation, and which also test simulator-unique systems like motion, visual, Sound, Environment, Instructor Station operation, etc
Operation Flight Profiles - which mimic real flights from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in both normal and non-normal operation. These test profiles can be produced by the TDM, or the customer, or both
Customer Lesson Plans - actual pilot training/evaluation lessons already used on other simulators, produced by the customer. These tests ascertain whether the FSTD can actually support the end objectives
Free-play Scenarios - essentially unscripted tests where the pilots treat the simulator like an aircraft and go explore the corners of the performance envelope using aircraft manuals, electronic checklists, tablets, operations manuals plus their combined experience
Running all quantitative and qualitative tests from the Qualification Test Guide
Checking and clearing down all functional Defect Reports (DRs) identified during testing
For a lower level of device, specific testing of any unique controls or Human Machine Interfaces such as flat touchscreen panels or simplified flight controls which are not as-aircraft.
Once the FSTD has been successfully relocated to your site you would expect to repeat a sample set of the above tests to ensure the operation of the device is the same as was witnessed in the factory. Then you must aim to fill in all the gaps in the testing plan that you could not complete at the factory for whatever reason. On site it is most critical for qualification that significant time and attention is spent looking at:
Motion system performance tests
Visual system performance tests
Static and dynamic flight control system performance tests
Sound system performance tests
as required/applicable for the level of FSTD and regulatory qualification being sought.
How can Sim Ops Help?
At Sim Ops our team members have decades experience of FSTD evaluation from the perspectives of TDM, Operator and also as a regulator and thus are uniquely qualified to tell you, show you or even conduct every aspect of the FSTD evaluation process on your behalf. We also have many years’ experience in the assessment of used devices; both in assessing the current condition and what updates will be required to have the device successfully re-qualified. We can help and/or lead you through the whole process or specific elements. Read more about how we can support your FSTD Assessment and Appraisal.