91+ Years in the Making

by Sanjay Kaeley on 05/18/2020

L3Harris’ roots in pilot training date back to 1929 and since then we have been on a journey of innovation. This journey has shaped today’s flight training technology and allows us to achieve the level of fidelity as found in modern simulators such as the RealitySeven full flight simulator (FFS).

For those who know about the history of pilot training, ours starts right at the very beginning with the invention of the first flight simulation device, the Link Trainer, produced by Edwin Link in Binghamton, New York.

Edwin Link was a pilot who felt there was a need for flight training in a safe environment. This led to Edwin inventing the very first ground-based pilot training device eliminating the restrictions caused by weather and lack of aircraft availability. His early design was a huge milestone in the history of pilot training and flight simulation. It incorporated a motion system that provided pilots with cues as to angular motion in pitch, roll, and yaw as well as a simulated cockpit that allowed for instrument training. The Link Trainer was fundamental throughout the early 1900s and continued to be manufactured into the 1950s. We are lucky enough to have one at our London Training Center still today and, while obviously not used for training, it serves as a great memory.

From that point on, flight simulation has been at the forefront of pilot training with the technology constantly evolving, and the team at L3Harris has been a major part of the development of each generation of device.

Some of the key developments include the Link and Weems Celestial Navigation Trainer which entered service in 1941, the revolutionary Redifon Comet 4 simulator in 1958 and also the first FFS approved for zero hour flight time training, the Rediffusion full flight simulator. Since then, we have seen multiple new generations of training devices taking us through to today’s most advanced training solution so far, the award winning RealitySeven FFS.

Today’s FFS are very much regulatory driven. The industry’s requirements for what a fully qualified FFS must offer is clearly defined and understood throughout the pilot training industry. However, something that remains a challenge is the engineering quality that enables these devices to provide the highest level of fidelity and operational reliability. From my experience, this is only possible by having a diverse, experienced and highly skilled team behind the build of every training device.

So 91 years of flight simulation, many generations of devices and many years’ worth of experience is what makes the RealitySeven however, what is next for the future of simulator training?

In today’s environment, we have to innovate and evolve as our industry is forced to look at new training tools as well as how we leverage the existing ones. We are helping our customers by deploying our distance learning products, such as ETHOS, and delivering our class room training through video conferencing technologies, with the focus on maximising training effectiveness and efficiency. In this environment we have to understand how our current and future generations of pilots learn. Leveraging the appropriate technologies, with data analytics providing insights into performance of the trainees as well as the instructors, and providing the evidence that effective learning is taking place. A huge amount of work is well underway and we look forward to sharing the fruits of our labour soon!