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Installing a FFS

A conversation the other day prompted us to think about this topic more, a customer who was getting ready to install their first FSTD commented to the effect that getting the building ready was a nightmare, “every time we think we have everything covered something else pops up”. So we thought we would share some experiences.

What Are the Requirements, where do they come from?

When a FSTD is manufactured the TDM will produce a document giving the requirements for the installation of the FSTD; these come by different names like “facility requirements document” or “site requirements” but all concentrate on the same thing, that being what is physically required to allow the FSTD to be installed and function. But, as our customer has come to realise this document does not (and as we will see cannot) cover everything.

TDM Requirements - As mentioned above you will receive a document from the TDM or, if you are buying a used device you need to request this from the seller. The quality of these documents are generally, in our opinion, very good.

Qualifying Authority Requirements - While your authority will not impose specific requirements there will be implied requirements and elements you have to demonstrate compliance with. These are generally centred around safety. In particular they will want you to show compliance with the ability to safely evacuate the device and the facility in an emergency.

Local Building Requirements - This is where you will need the guidance of your local building contractor. Whatever you do your building and installation must meet the local laws applicable to your location.

Insurance Company requirements - The main requirements we have seen from insurance companies impose is in the provision of fire detection and/or suppression systems. FSTDS, and FFS in particular, are expensive assets and we have seen insurance companies insist on stringent fire precautions as a prerequisite to insuring the device, fortunately whole FFS theft is rare!

Factors to consider

Motion Envelope - The TDM’s document will give you a set of dimensions giving you the minimum height, width and length of the building to accommodate the FFS in all motion conditions (be sure this includes an allowance for motion actuators with overrun “crush” tubes in the case of motion run away). But this doesn’t give you a true picture of the space required. At some stage you may need to perhaps remove the mirror, is there enough height for a crane, is there space in front to place the mirror?

Electrical Power Requirements - This will come from your TDM, be careful to ensure that you cover both the average load requirements and the peak load. Even motion systems that have hybrid pneumatic actuation have to initially lift the device, gravity is gravity. If you have multiple devices, think about the case where several devices are drawing their peak loads at the same time!

Motion Pad - The TDM will give you the minimum dimensions and mass of this, it is basically a counterweight. However you might like to think carefully about the size. Over the years we have seen many buildings built with the facilities for two FFS but only initially having one. Should your first FFS TDM have a smaller requirement and you build both bays to this requirement you will limit the possible competition on the second device.

Chilled water - Although all new FFS we know of being made now use electrical or hybrid motion and control loading systems that do not require chilled water to remove excess heat you may be asked to provide this for the air handling unit. We would question this requirement, we know of TDM that offers a closed circuit with a cooler/heat exchanger that can either be mounted externally to the building or even on the sim hall floor.

Mezzanine Height/design - Although some TDMs do offer options that eliminate the drawbridge access to a FFS this is the norm still. Unfortunately not all FFS, even from the same TDM, sit at the same height. So when defining the height make sure that there is some flexibility in case your subsequent device has a different requirement. We would recommend a slightly higher mezzanine with the ability to have steps down to the drawbridge that can be easily resized to accommodate different FFSs from different manufacturers.

Simulator hall outside doors - As these are meant to be the entrance way for the simulator when it is delivered, those are very large. The TDM will provide minimum dimensions, and again we recommend adding some extra to future proof your building. If the situation allows, we also recommend either having one door directly in front of each simulator, or plenty of extra space inside the hall to move an old simulator out and a new simulator in. In ten years’ time, you don’t want to have to remove all the simulators standing between your old FFS being uninstalled and the hall’s only door. Also, we have seen older centres equipped with a removable outside wall instead of doors, albeit with significant costs and efforts, but we don’t recommend them. They unnecessarily remove the easiest accessway to the hall for equipment or heavy parts that will be necessary during the simulator’s lifetime.


Even if your TDM does not advise you on what choices you can make it is wise to give some factors thought, we have highlighted some common areas below.

We discussed it above but one choice you could make, in the case of a new building, is to provide your own cooling via the building infrastructure. One of the world’s biggest FFS operators has adopted this option, it has some advantages but remember, if you come to sell the device there will probably be a need to buy an Air Handling Unit.

Motion system safety - A decision you will need to make, that may well be influenced by local health and safety regulations, is how you ensure personnel do not enter the motion envelope whilst motion is engaged. This can vary from a simple painted “keep out” zone on the floor through badge access to the sim hall floor, fences or even laser trips.

Location of the computer room (or indeed if you need one) - Conventional wisdom is that the computer room should be on the mezzanine level with a window overlooking the device, and for certain all simulator engineers reading this will be saying that is where it has to be. But it doesn’t, as long as there are steps near the device up to the mezzanine there are examples that work well, where the computer room is on the sim hall floor level. We can even cite at least one training centre that doesn’t even have a room; just a desk and cabinets on the sim hall floor. That being said, you will want to reasonably protect the computers against theft. We have seen a brand new Unix host computer disappear at a major airline after the locks on the computer room were installed on the wrong side of the door.

Overhead Crane - Back in the days of CRT projectors an overhead crane in the sim hall was almost essential; however with the new LCOS/LED/LCD etc projectors that need has gone away (that said we do see the size/weight of these creeping up a bit). So whilst not now as important as it was a modest capacity overhead crane, say one tonne, will be helpful and if (when) you have to do a reskin to a mirror will be very valuable; especially in places with extreme weather where keeping doors open for a crane in -40oC or +50oC is not nice.

Intercom - Although the advent of mobile phones has made communications from within a FFS to the maintenance team/engineering team easier we would still advise a direct intercom. We are unaware of the TDMs providing these.

Fire detection/suppression - It is probable that your TDM will have an option to fit fire suppression piping but the system, if you choose to have one, will need to be installed and commissioned locally; most FFS do not have suppression. Normally the TDM will have fitted smoke/fire detection to the computer cabinets and the cabin, however you will need to choose how to integrate this with the building system as well as how emergency stop switches will function; not as simple as you may think and probably this subject needs a blog of its own.

How can Sim Ops help?

Between the partners at Sim Ops we have been involved with several dozens of installation projects, we have personal experience of the good the bad and the down right disastrous. We can help you either write your requirements, discuss with your architects or even just act as a reviewer for your documents for a sanity check.

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