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Flight simulators have been used to train pilots for over 80 years. At that time, there were many breakthroughs in aviation technology. Now, virtual reality (VR) is about to usher in a whole new era of professional pilot training that will have a profound impact on the aviation industry.

All pilots, from the Air Force to civilian aircraft to private jets, have been trained in flight simulators for nearly a century. But virtual reality will change the way pilot training schools are taught, and it's not just a technological breakthrough. A virtual reality pilot training system has the potential to significantly reduce flight training costs while reducing the Air Force budget. They can even be used to train mechanics.

In April 2019, the U.S. Air Force launched the next pilot training course for 30 students. Using VR headsets and advanced AI biometrics to replace traditional multi-million dollar flight simulators, 13 pilots were certified in just four months. The usual pilot training system takes about a year. VR flight training costs $1,000 per unit instead of the usual $4.5 million for traditional simulators. Students can fully immerse themselves in the cockpit using the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, while biometrics monitor heart rate and pupil measurements - allowing flight instructors to see exactly who immersed students are in the learning experience - something traditional flight simulators can't do to this point. Another breakthrough part of virtual reality flying is the ability to swap one cockpit for another – students go from flying a T-6 trainer to an F-22 in just 10 seconds. The learning experience is further enhanced by allowing students to analyze flights that have been captured and uploaded to the VR simulator.

What is virtual reality pilot training?

Typically, flight simulators are created by cutting out the front of the plane (the cockpit) and then mounting it on a hexapod platform that moves the top part of the plane six degrees. Video displays were then installed, allowing pilots to overlook the landscape or runway.

During pilot training, flight simulators enable students to interact with real aircraft cockpits. They save fuel and wear and tear on aircraft and engines, and can replicate hazardous conditions and system failures without risking any real-world passengers.

A Full Flight Simulator (FFS) is a more technologically advanced simulator that uses advanced technologies in the areas of motion, vision, communications and air traffic. For example, FFS can simulate the friction of air along a fuselage and allow pilots to train in spatial orientation. This allows for a 180+ degree view of the satellite mass of all important objects at a particular airport. The pilot can then precisely work out the approach and exit procedures in the simulator.

In the past, FFS was divided into four levels from A to D, with D being the highest standard. In recent years, these classes have been changed to seven international classes and the D class has now been changed to Type 7. D/Type 7 standard for initial pilot training (conversion to new aircraft) and recurring commercial pilot training for commercial air transport (all commercial pilots must train regularly, usually every six months, to keep their passengers on CAT aircraft Qualifications).

Flight simulators are huge, weighing several tons, and expensive. For example, a Model 7 full flight simulator sells for as much as $12 million, not including the cost of running the simulator. As newer planes are introduced, it becomes more expensive, which means older planes have to be discarded. The result is that pilot training costs are prohibitively high and beyond the reach of many aspiring pilots.

Is VR pilot training still in sight?

The aviation industry is divided on the effectiveness of using virtual reality pilot training systems in pilot training schools. Some believe that there is nothing on the market that can replace a tried and true flight simulator, and they believe that it is essential for pilots to train in a real cockpit, even if the cockpit starts to fill with smoke and feels this It feels like they can also get their hands on an oxygen mask by the subtle vibrations of an airplane passing a real cockpit seat. Currently, there is no evidence that virtual reality is a better alternative to physical simulators, but that will change. There are good reasons why the Air Force and private pilot training schools are already using VR as an alternative to video tutorials.

The U.S. Army recently announced a deal with Microsoft to use its HoloLens technology for military training. This allows soldiers to take readings of their surroundings in real time, but the research goal is to develop technologies that enable wayfinding, target acquisition and mission planning. Based on the huge flight training cost savings and reduced risks associated with VR flying, virtual reality is likely to see rapid adoption in military pilot schools as well as in commercial and private pilot training.

The future of VR pilot training

Over the past decade, virtual reality has gone from a fantasy thing to mainstream in the video game industry. By 2016, more than 230 companies had developed VR-related products, including well-known brands such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung. By 2018, Facebook showed off Half Dome, a prototype with a zoom display. This allows for infinite focusing distances at close, mid and long distances, with a 140-degree field of view, without losing the current form or weight of VR consumer devices.

Current technologies use VR headsets or multi-projection environments to simulate the physical state of a user in a virtual environment. But the device that has most significantly advanced VR pilot training is called a haptic system (also known as "force feedback" in video games and military training applications), which is capable of transmitting vibrations and other sensations to the user.

In advances in virtual worlds, the Air Force is using the technology as part of its pilot training system, with particularly positive results for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The technology is also being used as an alternative to video tutorials at private pilot schools. Recently, a lead pilot instructor for an Australian airline partnered with a production studio to create a VR flight experience that teaches students the basics of flying using smartphones and mobile virtual reality headsets. VR pilot certification courses are already offered, and additional courses will be added if the first one is successful.

Immersive flight software

X-Plane 11

The popularity of this software is mainly due to its authenticity. The latest upgrade features a new high-definition user interface, from "gear car to rivet" quality and realistic detail is a realistic simulation of a real aircraft. Some aircraft are equipped with simulated Garmin 1000s, while each has a 3D cockpit for instrument flight.

DCS World

Considered to be one of the best flight simulators available on PC and effective for online private pilot training, the software is realistic. The real challenge goes far beyond just video games, but learning how to fly a virtual plane from a highly detailed cockpit and dashboard. DCS World now has a number of YouTube learning tools and tutorials for users who need a little extra help.


The Aerofly2 features a crisp, detailed cockpit, excellent aerobatic characteristics, and is now available throughout the Southwest for users. Aerofly offers advanced 3D graphics, and the flight dynamics model provides a high degree of realism for aspiring pilots.

FSX Steam

The award-winning Microsoft Flight Simulator X is now available on Steam. With updated multiplayer features and Windows 8.1 support, Microsoft Flight Simulator X Steam Edition offers users the VR experience of flying some of the world's most iconic aircraft in any of 24,000 destinations. The VR flying game racing mode of the FSX Steam Edition gives players the opportunity to compete in four types of racing, including the Red Bull Air Race course, the seaplane course, and fictional courses such as Hoop and Jet Canyon in varying weather conditions.

How pilots and the aviation industry are making VR work for them

One thing's for sure: Whether a pilot or flight instructor feels more at home in an old-fashioned cockpit or strapped into the latest Model 7 full flight simulator, the use of VR in aviation is no longer neglected. This is evidenced by the number of virtual reality headsets used at every major aviation and aerospace trade show, as well as military case studies on the affordability, effectiveness, and ease of use of VR pilot training systems.

VR flight simulations may not be a substitute for actual air flight experience, but by significantly reducing pilot training costs, they can open up aviation career possibilities for an entire new generation.

Recently, Lufthansa Training launched its first VR training for flight attendants in Frankfurt and Munich. In the future, regular training of flight attendants will take place in modern virtual reality hubs. About 18,500 flight attendants will undergo safety-related training annually in state-of-the-art virtual training courses, and there are plans to expand VR training to other areas of flight attendant training.

Despite the exciting possibilities of VR pilot training, the technology has some way to go, and many will have to convince it to become part of mainstream pilot training. Many aviation experts still believe that flying in VR, no matter how realistic, is unlikely to be the same as a full-flight simulator of a Model 7 or even a basic cargo plane simulator. There is a problem to convince the brain when the student knows that he or she can press the reset button and do it all over again. The future of VR flight training will depend on the technology's ability to achieve what's called "merged reality" -- the ability to convince the brain that it's in real life or critical situations even when it's in a virtual reality world.

This is the result of a joint effort between NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center and Systems Technology Inc. The project, called Merged Reality, involves a head-mounted virtual reality tool that enables pilots to train for a variety of situations in the air. The latest discovery is that VR flight experiences can better convince the brain that the body is in the real flight state during the flight, rather than sitting in a simulator seat. Since the exercise was conducted at an altitude of 5,000 feet, a recovery error is not expected to be catastrophic.

Although VR technology still has a long way to go, it is advancing by leaps and bounds. Now, tomorrow's pilots can put on a VR headset, engage a Cessna 172, pilot an Airbus A320 and proficiency in a Boeing 747. After all, every pilot will tell you that their dreams come true early on.

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