As you can imagine – we get this question more than any other. The simple answer is: It depends on your needs. Due to the tremendous difference in simulator products we offer, simulator cost can range in price from several thousand dollars to many millions of dollars. To get a more meaningful answer, we need to break it down to product levels.
Entry Level Reconfigurable Device (RTD)
Our least expensive simulator, the Frasca Reconfigurable Training Device or RTD, represents simple systems and aircraft. This Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD) is ideal for small single-engine aircraft flight training and recurrency. The device features a simple open cockpit, highly standardized instrument panel and flight controls, and the ability to represent (more…)
Chad Martin took some time out to talk about the University of North Dakota’s (UND) world renown aviation program and how they successfully integrate simulators into their training.
FRASCA: Tell us about your position with UND?
CM: I’m the Fleet Manager and work on Special Projects for the program which means I manage the aircraft and simulator fleet and research products that help support our students and our mission. I’ve been with UND full time since 1999.
FRASCA: How many students do you have enrolled in your programs?
In the context of flight training the discussion of simulator time that can be logged versus not logged is an important one. There is a general argument that if the FARs do not allow the time to be logged then why spend more time in a simulator. Firstly, it is important to understand that there is a difference between “logging” and “being able to apply” those hours for credit towards the PPL. The FAA does not impose any maximums in terms of simulator (BATD, AATD, FTD) time that can be logged. However, it does place maximums of how many of those hours can be used as credit towards the PPL certificate.
The Federal Regulations indeed place certain limits on the amount of simulator time that can be counted towards flight training minimums. For example, the minimum hours needed to achieve the PPL is 40 hours. Of the 40 hours, the FAA allows for 2.5 hours to be used as credit towards the PPL using a qualifying simulator (FAR 61.109 [i]). Similarly, the FAA allows for 20 hours of the 40 hours required towards the instrument rating to be achieved on a simulator (FAR 61.65). If it is a Part 141 school, the allowances go up to 15% of minimum time required (40 hours) which is 6 hours (Part 141, Appendix B (c)(3)) for the PPL. For the Part 141 school, for the Instrument Rating, the credit goes up to 25% if using a BATD, or 40% if using an AATD or FTD. While these are maximums that current regulations impose, it is a flaw to limit the use of the simulator to these numbers.
Let’s examine why.
Simulators provide a whole lot of value when it comes to flight training. The value earned is typically in terms of either reduced time to complete training or reduced cost of completing training.
Such value is better understood when it is broken down into direct value and indirect value. The direct value is in reduced cost that one pays for the simulator hours as compared to real-aircraft hours. The indirect value is even more important. Every hour spent on a simulator brings about learning in some form and eventually reduces the amount of real-aircraft time needed to complete training. Research has shown this over the years. Every iteration of training performed on the simulator leads to reduced iterations of practice that would be required in real-world aircraft. This reduction in ‘iterations’ leads to compressing training time while also reducing training costs.
The US national average to achieve a PPL is around 70-75 hours. It has been proven that blending simulator time into the training drops that number down to 55-60 hours. This is despite the fact that only 2.5 of those simulator hours can be used as credit towards the PPL (if Part 61 – or 6 hours for Part 141 schools). Even if we blended in 20 hours of simulator time and total training hours equaled 70 or 75, the cost of those 20 hours in a simulator is far lower than in a real-world aircraft. Given a simulator’s ability to pause, re-position, and restart scenarios at the press of a button, the number of practice iterations that can be conducted in a 90-minute slot is much higher than in a real-world aircraft.
As with anything, there is always another perspective. Ask an experienced CFI (and I did ask more than one), and one of the responses was “…personally I think PPL students need time in the airplane to learn to ‘feel’ the airplane”.
That said, there are a lot of areas in flight training that don’t require running a real-world
aircraft to achieve that training. To name a few – understanding the workings of the GPS onboard an aircraft, practicing procedure under instrument failures, pattern entry, runway or taxiway markings, airspace entry and avoidance, engine-out scenarios, getting visual feedback of the rectangular pattern, descent procedures, VOR workings, DG or HSI use, and autopilot use.
Once again, most experienced CFI’s would argue that a simulator can certainly introduce an instrument failure to a student on the sim, but it’s a totally different feeling when you’re in an airplane and you lose an attitude indicator in the clouds. The CFI view on this is that simulators miss out the emotion where “suddenly the body is fighting what the eyes are telling the brain, leading you to put the airplane into a position you didn’t intend to…. it’s very hard to simulate that sensory illusion”. Another CFI went on to add about engine failures… “there’s a much different feeling you get in your gut when you’re running out of airspeed, you’re getting low and you suddenly realize you didn’t plan your approach well to the field or runway in a real airplane…”. He believes that a sim will teach the procedure and enhances skill, but the airplane combines procedure, skill, and adds the element of inherent discomfort that goes with being that situation without having ‘pause’ button to press.
There is no taking away that there is a lot of teaching and learning that comes out of the experiencing the imperfections of the machine.
On the contrary, the ability to experience a solo cross-country flight before it is undertaken in the real-world aircraft, in certain weather conditions, and across uneven terrain gets the flying brain engaged. Building muscle memory around checklist use and proper sequence of actions in the cockpit can all be accomplished better in a simulator and help get prepared for a check-ride at much lower cost.
CFI’s agree that simulators have come a long way over the years. What this means is that the industry needs to adopt balance. It also means that there is not a ‘one size fit all’ approach. For the PPL, real-world stick time is essential to some extent. For any of the follow-on certifications, a simulator is absolutely viable and essential.
The idea till now has been that a PPL student gets 2.5 hours of value (or 6 hours as the case may be) from the simulator and the rest has to happen within a real-world aircraft. Simulators have advanced significantly over the decades. The time has come for this idea to be flipped, within limits of course, as indicated before. It may be completely possible for flight training curriculums to aim to perform the FAA-prescribed minimum time (40 minus the 2.5) in a real-world aircraft and perform the rest of the training on a simulator. Going by the national average, this would amount to 35 hours of real-world aircraft time being substituted by a simulator. A savings that quickly adds up to 3500-4000 dollars!
Hence, the next time you have access to a simulator make the most of it. If you do not have access to a simulator, make sure to find a location which has one. When in a simulator, use it to practice those aspects of flight training such as the use of the GPS that you won’t have the time or attention to work on while in a real-world training aircraft.
Simulators are time and cost compressors. Make the most of them when they are available. Do not limit your use of the simulator to maximums prescribed by the FARs. Remember, the time may not all qualify for the credit, but every hour spent on the simulator reduces your real-world aircraft time and your costs.
Frasca now offers Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) In and Out functionality on new simulators equipped with Garmin GTN 650 and 750. With the FAA’s ADS-B rule now in effect, pilots can learn and become proficient before taking to the skies. With an ADS-B In-equipped training device, pilots learn to manage in-flight data previously unavailable (more…)
Designed to keep your devices up to date and fully functional, Frasca’s extensive offering of customer support extends well beyond standard service. Here is a look at your options: (more…)
In the mid-2000s, the Bristow Group began operating a new generation of twin-engine IFR helicopters to support offshore oil and gas (O&G) exploration and production – the Airbus EC225, Sikorsky S- 76C++, and Sikorsky S-92. To support flight training in these new aircraft, Bristow needed top-of-the-line simulators that ensured a realistic training environment. (more…)
SimAssist™ is now Patented
Frasca’s own SimAssist™ software was recently patented. This valuable training software technology tracks a student’s task proficiency in real time, providing feedback to the instructor and automatic assistance to the student at the instructor’s discretion. (more…)
American Flyers and Frasca share a long history in civilian simulator training that continues to grow even today.
It all started in 1939, when Reed Pigman founded charter airline and flight training facility American Flyers in Ft. Worth, Texas. American Flyers provided primary flight training to civilian and military pilots, having been chosen as one of the few civilian flight schools to train pilots for the U.S. Army and Navy. The airline was sold in the 1970s while the flight school continued to grow.
Not long after Reed began his company, Monty Montgomery, a U.S. Army Air Corps Simulator Instructor during World War II, founded Aviation Training Enterprises (A.T.E.) in 1947. The leader in civilian instrument training for civilian pilots in the U.S., A.T.E. developed many of the simulator instrument training techniques still in use today. Later, A.T.E. also became the first civilian flight training school to utilize full flight simulators for both general and commercial aviation education.
Monty set up A.T.E. above a butcher shop across from Chicago’s Midway airport, using surplus Link Trainers from the Army to provide instrument training. The Link Trainers were designed for basic instrument attitude flying and navigation, with no screen or motion and not representing any specific aircraft type. Under today’s regulations, these trainers would be classified as advanced aviation training devices (AATDs).
In 1958, Rudy Frasca, who taught with Monty in the Army simulators, founded Frasca Aviation to design a more advanced simulator than the surplus options on the market. When he presented his first design to A.T.E., Monty was sold. A.T.E. placed an order, becoming Frasca’s first customer and helping launch the company.
Designed prior to the standard six pack’s development, that first Frasca simulator contained only the basic navigation instrumentation, with the advanced inclusion of a dual head VOR. A cover closed over the pilot’s head, creating a dark, quiet environment.
The instructor sat outside the device, communicating with the pilot through an intercom system. A large black device known as a “spider” gave the instructor the aircraft’s location. Uncomplicated, the simulator worked well and was integral in Monty’s further development of instrument instruction techniques.
In 1980, A.T.E. merged with American Flyers, bringing A.T.E’s materials, Frasca simulators, processes, procedures, and intellectual property to American Flyers. Many of the A.T.E. processes and procedures continues as a part of the company to this day.
Over the years, American Flyers continued to rely on Frasca’s innovation to keep the company on the leading edge of instrument training. American Flyers continued to purchase and operate a number of Frasca devices. When it was time to update their AATD fleet last year, they again turned to Frasca.
Since American Flyers’ last large purchase of AATDs, the simulator industry underwent considerable change to meet customer demand. New devices were more complex, providing options and accessories not necessary for American Flyers’ training, including flight systems, motion, wrap‐around screens, etc. American Flyers sought a basic six‐pack system to train and reinforce key instrument piloting skills.
Frasca’s Reconfigurable Training Device (RTD) was just the solution American Flyers needed. The RTD is a simply designed and easy to use AATD that can operate as a six‐pack and quickly convert to a Garmin G1000 with the turn of a few screws. The device can be reconfigured to convert to different aircraft models, including the Cessna 172, Piper Seminole, and Piper Archer. Additional aircraft kits are in development to expand this offering.
American Flyers continued their historical relationship with Frasca last year, placing an RTD order. They took delivery earlier this year and today use the RTD to continue to blaze trails for the next generation of civilian pilots.
Throughout the past 60 years, Frasca has established itself as a leader in simulator‐based training technology, offering flight training simulation solutions for all aircraft types and market sectors including commercial and defense markets. Frasca’s dedication to developing new and innovative simulation solutions has allowed the company to stay ahead of changing technological advances in instrumentation, navigation, and aircraft design.
Frasca’s line of simulation‐based training products has come a long way from the first prototype for single‐engine airplane flight schools which was delivered to American Flyer’s predecessor. Today, Frasca airplane and helicopter simulator solutions, from advanced aviation training devices (AATDs) to full flight simulators (FFSs), support civilian operators, flight schools, collegiate flight training programs, airlines, air medical operators, military branches, and law enforcement.
Frasca’s long success in simulation technology boils down to our key philosophy: working with customers and the industry, we design and build high quality, realistic, and durable flight training solutions that help improve aviation safety. We begin with our engineers, pilots, project managers and marketing team working directly with customers and industry insiders to understand current flight training needs. Through high‐level engineering and manufacturing right on site in Urbana, Illinois, we develop high‐fidelity experiential solutions – incorporating state‐of‐the‐art visual, sound, motion, and tactile simulations to realistically represent actual flight.
During development and manufacturing, we closely managing every aspect of quality control, testing, qualification, and certification. This experience allows us to work with customers to develop their Simulator Quality Management System (SQMS) as required by the FAA, as well as coordinate between our customers and FAA simulator inspectors during the evaluation phase to ensure training devices receive qualification and approval for use within their training programs.
Whether we’re designing the latest cutting edge FFS, or a new AATD, our level of quality and dedication to realistic, high‐fidelity solutions is exactly the same. We believe a high‐quality, reliable simulation solution will ensure a higher transfer of training to the aircraft, helping pilots develop correct skills and reflexes from the first lesson that will translate to increased safety throughout their flying career.
If a customer has a specific need, we put this same level of dedication and focus to work toward developing a custom and reliable solution designed to meet their training goals. You may know us for one or a handful of our products. Yet through our decades of experience, Frasca is one of the only simulator manufacturers with the full product range to service all customers’ needs. Learn more about all our products at www.frasca.com.
Frasca’s Support Center resources are designed to help our customers operate and maintain their simulators to peak capacity, 24/7/365. From a customer service portal and forum to useful articles, service bulletins, and “how-tos”, Frasca’s support center keeps the answers you need at your fingertips.
To access the support center, direct your browser to https://support.frasca.com. While not required to access very basic support information or subscribe to email updates on new articles, we recommend logging in or creating an account to personalize your experience. Once logged in, you have access to the full site, including the customer forum, document downloads, and all articles. You will also be able to post comments and questions on articles and receive notifications when someone replies.
Upon logging in, you’ll immediately see Article Categories to explore. If you’re in a hurry and want to get to the bottom of an issue, enter your question or search term in the top search box to receive a list of potential articles. Don’t see what you’re looking for? The support center also includes a link on the landing page to submit a question or support request through the Forum. The support center includes a vast number of articles written to help you with the operation and maintenance of our simulators, from technical maintenance and repair issues to intricate and specific operational procedures.
From the top menu after logging in, you can also access Frasca’s continually expanding catalog of downloadable documents, which range from maintenance manuals and assembly instructions to system wire drawings and the RTD AATD letter of approval. As the Customer Service Center grows, new downloads continue to be added, so check back regularly for new documents.
The Support Forum, accessed through the top menu, provides access to Frasca’s professional support team and other members to help you with issues and assist you with troubleshooting. You have the option here to subscribe to see new forum activity, posts, and topics. While members of the support center are visible to each other by default, you can make your profile private in your user profile. Regardless of your visibility, members can only interact through article comments and the forum. They cannot contact you directly through the Support Center. Take a few minutes today to log into the Frasca Support Center to experience the wealth of information, tips, and support available to help you ensure you get the best out of your Frasca simulator.