top of page
Search

What have the Aircraft Manufacturers ever done for us?



Put any two British males of a certain age together for more than 30 minutes, particularly if in a bar, and inevitably a Monty Python sketch will enter the conversation. While thinking of the Aircraft Manufacturer's (Original Equipment Manufacturers, OEM) involvement in the flight simulation and training industry it put us in mind of the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian” and the classic often quoted line "What did the Romans ever do for us?" (look it up at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xad5Rl0N2E)


But first let's step back and consider why the OEMs even bother to support the simulation industry at all. Well, as always, it boils down to enlightened self-interest. Without Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTDs) there will be no type rated pilots. Without type-rated pilots the aircraft become nothing more than objets d'arts. Probably even more importantly OEMs want to play a role in ensuring the quality of training whatever types of FSTDs are used, even pilot error-induced crashes are bad for OEM aircraft reputations and future sales. Hence it is a priority to ensure, by one means or another, there is always sufficient high fidelity training capacity to ensure sufficient qualified pilots.


So, what have the OEMs ever done for the simulation and training industry?


Data packages

Whilst it is possible to instrument an aircraft and collect validation or flight test data, then reduce it to a model, it is expensive. And of course you can only do that for a certified aircraft. For an aircraft in development prior to certification, it just isn't an option. The initial FSTDs enter service qualified as "Interim level C or D" using a combination of predicted engineering model data (based upon computational and wind tunnel testing) and initial, limited, flight test data; this by its nature only being available from the OEM.


And of course it is not only the performance data that is required to build a FSTD, there is a whole host of data ranging from drawings (CAD models), ICDs, system schematics, wiring diagrams through to operations manuals that only the OEM has.


The OEMs provide this data to the industry, albeit at a not insignificant cost.


(If you want to know more then look up the EASA Easy Access Rule for Simulator Data CS-FCD which defines validation source data: the aircraft reference data that are composed of ground and flight test data, as well as engineering data, which are used to objectively confirm that the flight simulator reflects the static as well as the dynamic performance characteristics of the aircraft and its relevant systems… to support the objective qualification of aeroplane full flight simulators associated to the pilot type rating training, or provisional validation source data to support their interim qualification.)


Operational Sustainability Data (OSD)

The OEMs, under EASA rules, have to provide this data for the initial type certification of an aircraft (since 2014). It is primarily concerned with defining a minimum syllabus for type ratings and differences training, as well as training areas of special emphasis (TASE). Hence both the TDM and the operators need this and have to obtain it from the OEM; although we believe OSDs (and documents such as Operations Training Transmissions, OTTs) should be in the public domain.


However, issues we have both seen and experienced are where OEMs construct OSDs based upon their (primary) location and their own FSTDs. This can result in some strange anomalies. For example there is a current approved OSD which states that “for part of the practical training an FFT may be substituted for an FFS Level C or D without motion”. Nowhere within EASA regulations does an FFT exist as a recognised and/or approved device and any qualified FFS irrespective of level without an operable motion system is an unserviceable/unqualified device.


Standards

Started initially by Airbus (GO5) the OEM provision of standardised training configuration definitions changed the approach to building FSTDs significantly. Up until then, certainly for level D FFS, the TDM had to accurately reflect and track the configuration of a specific aircraft tail number (or MSN). This meant that operators without their own FSTDs had to make greater adaptations to their lesson plans and training programs when using different FSTDs and made data provision more expensive and difficult. For independent training centres this has been very beneficial (it seems an age ago they had to find a sponsor to allow them access to a particular aircraft tail number's data).


Kits of parts

Like the initial data release, the TDMs rely on the OEMs for kits of aircraft parts to build the initial training devices for new aircraft types. Even if the component manufacturers wanted to sell parts directly to the TDMs they cannot until the aircraft is certified; these initial, "Red Label" parts have to be controlled by the OEMs. Not to mention the OEMs have to ensure sufficient parts are available at the right time, from what we have observed over the years this can be very difficult to achieve.


Avionics Solutions

New aircraft inevitably mean new systems and new challenges to simulate them. The OEMs are by far the best-placed players to ensure the needs of the training and simulation industry are taken into account. Even if only to ensure Arinc 610 support is included (see our blog https://www.sim-ops.com/post/a-hommage-to-arinc-report-610). Our experience is that the OEMs put a lot of effort into making this happen.


So, apart from the data packages, OSD, standards, kits of parts and avionics solutions what have the OEMs ever done for us?


After all these services that they provide the industry with then why are there people, and I can assure you there are such people, so anti them?


Competition in training

There was a time when the OEMs concentrated solely on entitlement training, that is when they sold an aircraft fleet they packaged training to insure the airline had sufficient initial crews to operate them. That meant mainly type ratings and differences courses. They established their training facilities near their factories, and to be honest, underutilised their FSTDs. It wasn't long until some people started proposing to sell this unused capacity. Today the OEMs, with notable exceptions, have dispersed their training capacity worldwide and actively compete with significant, some would say unfair, advantages against some of their data package customers; in particular the independent training centres.


FSTD Training Standards

Whilst these have been good for independent training centres (and the OEM's own training centres), airline operators of FSTDs may not be as enthusiastic about standard configurations. Those that have sufficient fleet sizes to require one or more dedicated FSTD would much rather have their particular configuration rather than a standard which requires nugatory différences training. However, as stated earlier, this comes at a significant extra cost as it always does when you start customising a baseline product.


Kits of parts (yes I know we praised them earlier). But we talked about new aircraft types above, so now consider an aircraft type that has been in service for thirty plus years, parts are readily available on the aftermarket (which doesn't necessarily mean used). That can be bought for much less than the prices quoted from the OEM or component manufacturer. Now think about being told that you have to buy the whole kit, as defined by the OEM at the price set by the OEM. Especially if the deal is you can't separate data from parts.


Mandatory simulation models (in lieu of data)

The rationale of the OEMs is laudable, "if we, the aircraft manufacturer, who knows the aircraft inside out, produce the simulation we can validate it and ensure consistent training". But at what cost. There are those who will tell you that the prices for these models are far in excess of the equivalent price a TDM could produce them for. They will also say that they stifle innovation and competition. And those numbers are increasing rapidly. Additionally, when problems are found in these models, only the OEM can fix them and it is not always done rapidly.


Data pack pricing policies

How can we put this nicely… the data pack prices now account for a significant proportion of the price of an FSTD, a very significant proportion... anywhere from 30 to >50% depending on the type. The OEMs will, correctly, argue that it is their IPR and they need to recuperate their initial costs in collecting the data and maintaining an organisation to support the industry. But, after 20 to 30 years, it could be argued that those initial costs and subsequent data support costs have been recuperated many times over.


A new reality

Today we are seeing new emerging technologies in training and FSTD production such as the use of virtual reality and mixed reality solutions in qualified FSTDs. In addition, the regulatory rule-making working groups (e.g. EASA RMT.0196 adopting ICAO 9625 approach) are proposing changes to the FSTD standards for non-FFS devices to afford them greater credits, thus offloading the FFS devices….the OEMs will have to reconsider their approach to standard configuration data package content and pricing to support these significant evolutions in FSTD design and accreditation.


How can Sim Ops help?

We've been engaged in these issues for longer than we care to recall. If you're embarking on a new project and need help to navigate this contact us.


Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page