Your simulator selection will impact many facets of your business:
Training Value - A simulator’s training value is directly related to it’s fidelity or realism. It’s extremely important to learn to ‘fly right’ from the start.
In times of stress, such as emergency situations, pilots will revert to the way they first learned a task. If the flight simulator used in their initial training was not accurate to the aircraft, negative training may lead to errors in their decision-making process and final actions, creating a safety hazard. If a student pilot is initially taught something incorrectly, they will have a difficult time correcting bad habits. Conversely, pilots who experienced training in a realistic flight simulator are more likely to perform the correct actions leading to a successful and safe outcome.
Financial – It is important to consider both acquisition (up-front) costs in the short-term and total ownership (life-cycle) costs in the long-term. While it may seem logical to purchase the least expensive flight simulator, overlooking additional operational costs will negate any original savings.
These additional long-term costs can include higher downtime as a result of breakage, decreased revenue due to unscheduled maintenance time, increased labor costs for repairs, decreased useful life if the vendor goes out of business, and lower employee and customer morale due to utilizing an inferior and ineffective simulator.
It’s important to evaluate a flight simulator based on overall value, quality and long-term cost, not simply on the upfront price.
Image / Reputation – While at first glance the equipment you purchase may seem inconsequential in how you define your own program, it’s important to realize that most prospective students will view the equipment you purchase as an indication of the quality of your entire program. Try looking at your purchase from a different perspective and ask yourself these important questions:
How would you like your program to be perceived by your potential students and customers?
If you were a student, how would you feel about your program offering and equipment? Is it worth the investment being asked?
Could you potentially even increase your course offering cost if you had higher quality equipment?
For most people, purchasing a flight simulator is an experience that only happens once in their career. Therefore, you may be learning how to do this at the same time you are actually doing it. For others, especially those operating larger flight school operations, you may need to purchase multiple simulators and are making complicated decisions that affect the growth of your institution.
Being human, it is expected that we will all make mistakes. As pilots, we read accident reports to increase our knowledge and decrease the potential to make those same mistakes. Regarding simulator purchases, there are several well-documented situations where schools purchased flight simulators from small start-up companies who went bankrupt shortly after delivering the simulators, thereby leaving the school with no service and support. There are also several well-documented situations where schools purchased flight simulators from large well-established companies who shortly thereafter, through a corporate decision, decided to no longer support that business segment and left the schools with limited service and support on their equipment.
While we are not suggesting that any particular company will go bankrupt or close down their flight simulator division, we are suggesting that you seriously consider these situations and perform appropriate research yourself to judge the long-term viability of the different companies.
Because of the long-lasting effects this decision may have in multiple areas of your flight program and your personal career, this decision warrants a significant amount of due diligence with a formal decision making process.