Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Recently one of the most regular types of enquiries we have been receiving is from people looking at projects that involve moving Full Flight Simulators (FFS); commonly across international borders. Normally this is where the parties approaching us are considering purchasing a used device. We have previously discussed what to look at when buying such a device but this month we ponder on the practicalities of moving an FFS.
The Physical Move
A full flight simulator is not the easiest thing in the world to move, it isn’t just a case of calling your local shipper and them sending a couple of boxes. The device will need to be dismantled and special crates made on site for the shipment. These will not be cheap as they will need to be watertight, a crate for a device on the deck of a container ship for a 4-week sea journey needs to be robust.
Even the dismantling can be troublesome, it is often the case that special to type lifting beams and adaptors were either never supplied or have been misplaced over time. Lifting equipment and access equipment needs to be hired. The dismantlers need to carefully label and record all cable locations and coil/crate with care; digital photography is a bonus for this compared with previous years.
Even when packed and ready to ship there is normally a need for arrangement of a “convoi exceptionnel” permit with occasionally a police escort. Unless you are very confident, we always suggest using local, experienced, shippers.
There are several, independent, companies that specialise in moving FSTDs, many of whom Sim Ops work with. The TDMs also provide moving services (often using the said independent companies as sub-contractors) themselves. We would always recommend use of a company like Sim Ops or one of these specialists if anyone is considering doing this on their own for the first time.
Prior to initial installation all the TDMs will have supplied documentation defining the building requirements for the device, this documentation is invaluable (there are various names such as “facility requirements document”, “site preparation guide”, etc.)
For the new facility you will need to comply with the instructions, if you choose to move on your own you will not have the safety net of a pre installation survey by the TDM or independent contractor. It will also need to provide power at the correct standard and capacity; it is not uncommon for transformers to be required.
With regard to the facility the device is being removed from, be careful who is responsible for what, it is common for sales contracts to place the onus of returning the bay the device was in into the original condition. Where walls have to be removed and replaced this can become hard to manage as can be the disposal of large quantities of used hydraulic oil. We have also seen where a device has been blocked in by building changes after the original installation or by later devices being installed between it and the door.
Licences and Warranties
When a FFS is initially manufactured the Training Device Manufacturer (TDM) is obliged to licence Intellectual Property (IP), in the form of data or delivered software/models, from various sources including the aircraft manufacturer of the aircraft type simulated and since the 1990s avionic system suppliers. They then flow down end-user agreements to the FFS owner/operator. These licences need to be transferred prior to moving the device (in fact we would always recommend contacting the licencing companies prior to committing to purchasing the device). There is also an obligation to contact the FFS TDM and ensure the licence to use their IP is transferred. It is normal that the original sales contracts include a phrase such as “the transfer of the licence will not be unreasonably withheld”, that said, certainly for the aircraft manufacturers, a transfer fee is normally payable.
Another important item to think about is warranty validity. When the TDM’s FFS warranties were limited to one year this did not ever come into consideration, but in recent years we have heard of warranties being extended to five years and more. But most of the warranty clauses we have seen limit the warranty to the original owner, even if the warranty is transferable, we have heard of a TDM declaring the warranty void unless they were contracted to do the move.
Here there are two main considerations: legal compliance with local design regulations and training.
Moving a device within a country or regulated trading zone, such as the European Union does not normally present problems. But once the move is considered across these borders problems can arise. For example, FSTDs in Europe must be “CE” marked, a device that was originally supplied to a North American operator by a North American TDM may have problems when proving compliance; we do know of cases where the original TDM had to provide retrospective design files (we’ve been those people!). Another pertinent example is moving devices into countries with specific pressure vessel regulations, which most have. Taking pressure vessels into Japan is forbidden and most countries insist on inspection certificates and place life constraints on them. Electrical installation standards also vary. Be careful.
Lots of column inches have been expended on the re-qualification of FSTDs when moved and the topic itself is complicated and ever changing. Just because a device has a Level D qualification, for example in one jurisdiction does not mean it will be granted that when displaced. Grandfathering by one authority will not necessarily be recognised by another and we all know that there are differing legal frameworks in play. Suffice to say prior to the move contact the new authority and discuss the project with them, it will make everything easier.
Of special consideration is the FFS visual display mirror. The vast majority of these will be flexible mylar skinned mirrors (the few glass mirrors in service present their own issues when moving them). Whilst in service it is normal that these mirrors build up a thin coating of dust on the surface and this is not a problem if the whole surface is left undisturbed, the eye sees past it. Once the mirror is deflated the surface will become rippled. During transportation there is a tendency for the dust to gather in the upper folds of the ripples; once the mirror is subsequently sucked back into position this can look like stripes, often referred to as “tiger stripes” on the mirror surface. Whilst it is possible, by skilled individuals, to clean mirrors it is risky. The other danger of course is physical damage to the mylar during removal, transport and re-fitting; many a mylar has been damaged by wayward tools and loose bolts.
The bottom line is that we would always recommend that the move budget includes the cost of re-skinning the mirror, if you are lucky you won’t need it but...
How can Sim Ops Help
At Sim Ops we can ensure that every aspect of a potential move is considered before you commit to anything, we also have a network of resources that can ensure the device is safely and efficiently moved. We always counsel that all aspects are thoroughly checked and managed and have the experience and scars to step you through the process.