Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeping It Real

Now in the fixed-wing market, FLYIT simulators are impressively realistic and take flight training to another level

A Pilot’s Perspective

I haven’t met a pilot yet who can resist a simulator. Judging from the long lines at AOPA’s recent Expo in Long Beach, Calif., FLYIT knows this, and is showing pilots why their simulators are so impressive. Easily the coolest feature of the FLYIT simulators is the wraparound, 280-degree view. FLYIT has spared no expense in this area, and even contracts with third-party vendors to provide even more hyperrealistic scenery. Five-speaker subwoofer and mechanical devices provide engine and airframe vibration, with a touchdown feel so accurate that you’d swear it was real. The sims are not full-motion, but you hardly notice.

The technical team at FLYIT has done considerable custom programming to allow the simulators to accomplish extraordinary things—from custom visuals to controlling cockpit displays and performance envelopes. Even radio stacks are made by FLYIT to mimic the real devices as closely as possible. A 24,000-airport database means the instructor can place the student just about anywhere in the world. Want to shoot an approach into Taipei? No problem. Practice a helipad landing in Tokyo? You bet. It all comes standard.

We’re lucky to live in a time when realistic simulation is a part of our reality. FLYIT sims allow you to do things you never could in real life.
One unique aspect of FLYIT is its scenario development. Instead of just tooling around the sky doing the usual approaches and things, FLYIT has created custom simulations to let the student learn from real-world scenarios. It’s akin to scenario-based training used in airline pilot training. My mission required me to fly to the scene of an accident, pick up a victim, and then navigate the city and bring them to a tiny landing pad on top of a hospital. It’s a valuable—and, frankly, fun—feature.

The power of the instructor’s “command center” is equally impressive. Besides seeing everything the pilot sees, instructors can change the weather—from wind to cloud cover to visibility—or time of day. They can make needles twitch or set gauges at different values to catch pilots who blow off checklists. A “fault box” can fail virtually any cockpit or engine component, and the instructor can reposition the aircraft for repeated exercises. Imagine shooting an approach 20 times in one hour, as opposed to the three or four times in real life.

Flight School’s Perspective

Ultimately, these aren’t video games, and there has to be a compelling reason to own one. “Our goals are what we call the three Rs,” explains Terry Simpkins, a man who obviously is passionate about his business, “Realism, Reality and Reliability. And we like to add ‘Revenue’ because we want the flight school to make a good profit.” Research shows that a FLYIT sim costs a school about $1 per hour to operate, based on 20 usage hours per week. If schools charge the national average of $90 per hour for the sim, that’s a net profit stream of $41,080 annually. It’s not hard to project revenues based on even higher usage.

The considerable design and engineering that has gone into these units has resulted in a system so low on maintenance, that FLYIT is the only company offering a five-year warranty. Many of the more-than-100 FLYIT simulators around the world have gone 6,000 hours without a problem. Thoughtful extras have been built into the systems, including dual removable hard drives (one is a backup) that can be swapped in minutes. The fuselage and cockpit PVC board is colored all the way through, meaning scratches and scuffs remain invisible and there’s no paint to chip. An extra projector lamp and free software upgrades are included. Four-place intercoms and even dual headsets come in the package.

These simulators shine in their avionics because those are designed and manufactured by FLYIT. In addition to the six-pack, the standard package adds an HSI, dual nav/coms, transponder, auto-pilot, RMI and a Garmin 430. Dual Garmin 430s, Garmin 530 and G1000 glass cockpit are options. Though FLYIT can create just about any aircraft (they’ve done everything from a Twin Otter to a King Air), their “standard” single-engine production models include Cessna 172 and 182, Mooney Ovation and several Pipers. Simpkins tells me the Diamond DA40 is soon to be offered as a production model. Twins include the Beech Baron, Piper Seneca and Seminole.


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