Talking with newcomers to our industry often throws up un-expected questions that challenge our preconceived ideas, the “well we have always done it like that” responses. For us one of these came up recently when a client looking to install their first Flight Simulation Training Device (FSTD) asked this simple question, do I Really need a Maintenance Team? (And yes, there are still some people looking at new devices in these troubled times).
Isn’t that a silly question then?
No, not at all. On reflection we realised that although the default mindset is to consider the maintenance of Full Flight Simulators (FFS) there is a plethora of lower-level devices in use with very different needs. Indeed looking back at the blog we did last year “Establishing your Maintenance Team” we fell into the trap of focusing on FFSs.
All FSTDs from simple Desk Top Trainers (DTT) through to FFS have the potential to fail and need a certain amount of on-going care (unscheduled and scheduled maintenance) even if it is just cleaning the keyboards. However, an operator with only DTTs is most unlikely to employ a full-time maintenance person, let alone a team. Operators of fixed base devices, even those with collimated visuals, seldom have a big team and, more to the point, several we know operate without a dedicated maintenance team.
So, how do they cope? Well to a large extent the instructors at the smaller establishments take care of day-to-day issues with either an aircraft engineer or perhaps an IT specialist assisting when more complicated issues occur. The old Field Service Engineers dictum of “re-boot, re-load, relax” cures many a software problem! Some also enter into support agreements and have people they can call on to assist if things go badly wrong; indeed, at Sim Ops we offer that service.
It’s FFSs that are the problem then
For some reason as soon as a device gets put on a motion system a lot of people’s perceptions change. The strange thing is that with modern electric motion systems there is very little maintenance to do with them, greasing occasionally is about it. We do know of one single FFS operation that does not have a full-time maintenance person, let alone a whole team. In their case they have one person who was trained by the Training Device Manufacturer (TDM), but has other duties, who takes care of all but the daily activities. The daily maintenance (basically a walk around nowadays), daily readiness and between session mask cleaning etc being done by instructors. Failures being handled according to instructor capabilities and availability of the trained person.
The tolerance to down-time factor
Of course, the above scenario is only feasible for this operator as their annual usage is relatively low, if they have a failure that renders the FFS unusable they are operationally flexible enough to tolerate a day or so without training. An FSTD that is required to train for 7,000 hours a year would not afford that luxury.
Those Pesky QTGs
One task that does need to be planned for is the annual re-running of the Qualification Test Guide, whilst the true benefit of doing this could be questioned the fact remains that, under current regulations all the national authorities we know of require this. But again this can be done by either a specifically trained person or can be contracted out; Sim Ops would be more than happy to provide this service for example.
So do I need a team or not?
Well actually, no. Or to be more precise not necessarily. There are models that can be adopted that work fine without a full-blown team that, as we have seen, work if you can accept a certain amount of down-time. And remember the modern devices are very reliable, 99% plus is the norm so down time is not an enormous risk. Even with a maintenance team if you get a failure that requires a spare part you don’t have in stock you will lose time obtaining it.
Of course for a training centre selling dry lease time or a large operation with multiple instructors an expectation for them to do maintenance, however simple, is just not practical. So whilst a single FFS or a group of lower level devices do not dictate a full maintenance team a large centre with multiple devices will.
How can Sim Ops Help
Whether it is assistance in establishing your maintenance regime or providing personnel to supply back-up support or periodic running of QTGs we have the people to assist. Read more about our available services for On-site and remote technical support.