From Zoom meetings with clients to virtual medical appointments, Covid-19 work-from-home mandates have accelerated the advancement of a range of technologies that have enabled us to communicate, learn and network with each other. others without being in the same room. Many will continue to prove important long after the virus has passed. FlightSafety International’s Virtual Engine Simulator – developed for Pratt & Whitney Canada Engine Training – is undoubtedly one of them.
Raytheon Technologies began partnering with FlightSafety International a decade ago to expand the scope of its technical engine training programs to provide the best training and convenience to customers, leveraging of FlightSafety’s worldwide reputation.
This partnership evolved through great collaboration and resulted in this interactive virtual experience. Although the pandemic was not the reason for its rollout, the difficulty of getting students to training centers meant that the benefits of the virtual engine simulator became evident in 2020 and 2021. “It has been extremely helpful during Covid,” says DeWayne Dixon, Regional Manager for Maintenance Training, FlightSafety. “It meant our clients had a real educational tool in their living room and weren’t just looking at a PowerPoint slide.”
P&WC provided positive feedback on this additional way of providing hands-on instruction, which allows students to better understand how to identify internal defects invisible to the eye. You can do a lot of things with a real engine, but you can’t insert damage like corrosion.
What’s so different about the virtual engine trainer is that it allows instructors and students to really step into the shoes of an engine, see it at every component level and understand how each part interacts. Engines can be virtually disassembled so that units can be ‘swapped in’, while the virtual trainer also simulates an inspection of the engine during borescope training, where damage or faults can be synthetically introduced deep into the structure – something difficult to do on a real engine. Another benefit of using a virtual engine is that when the inevitable product updates occur to a production or legacy engine model, those changes can be quickly incorporated into the virtual engine training tool. .
The first virtual reality engine was designed at FlightSafety’s Montreal Learning Center in conjunction with the Dallas Courseware Design team in 2015. There are now 10 virtual engine trainers in use on the FlightSafety network, and 13 others will arrive in the next 18 months. Many are the popular PT6 variant, but there are also PW200, PW300 and PW800 series engines and soon the PW210, PW100 and PW150 on the horizon.
The interaction is like a video game. The engine itself is installed in a virtual workshop, and students click on a part to identify and move it. They can also view the engine from different angles or focus on a particular area. The result is a degree of interactivity and fine detail that is impossible with a physics engine. “It complements what we do in the classroom, but there are situations where it’s more effective than the actual asset,” says Dixon. Instructors love it because they can illustrate in real time what they’re trying to explain, while it’s clear the students appreciate the technology as many of them ask to stay after the formal session to continue. to use it. “The feedback has been amazing,” he notes.
“It complements what we do in the classroom, but there are situations where it’s more effective than the actual asset”
DeWayne Dixon, Regional Maintenance Training Manager, FlightSafety
Virtual learning will never fully replace hands-on training using a real engine, especially because regulatory authorities have requirements for using aircraft or engines in hands-on training. “Even without this requirement, there will be times when a hardware engine is needed. It’s a good balance between virtual and hardware assets,” says Dixon. “Ultimately, customers will dictate that balance. “
However, he believes the virtual trainer is a “game changer for students and for our instructors” with the ability to teach everything from basic engine introductions to very advanced technical courses. “It helped take training to a new level,” he says. “It has really moved things forward for us and for our customers.”