This paper explains how flight simulation has made a major contribution to flight safety over the last thirty years to become critical to the operation of civil airlines and military organisations. It not only provides effective training, but for many flight training organisations has reduced the cost of flight training significantly. The paper outlines the increasing role of flight simulation covering flight training and research and development of aircraft and systems. The contribution of the flight simulation industry to the UK economy, in terms of both employment and revenue, is highlighted.
The paper focuses on advances in the underpinning technologies of flight simulation, including mathematical modelling, real-time computation, motion actuation, visual image generation systems and projection systems.
The paper also summarises the broadening roles of flight simulation; from part-task trainers to zero flight-time training in civil aviation; in military aviation, extending to combat domes and mission rehearsal; in defence procurement, where synthetic environments are used widely in evaluation studies prior to major project commitments; in aircraft development, providing powerful design tools to enable system designers to evaluate prototype systems.
As a result of the acceptance of flight simulation in flight training, the use of simulators has been standardised throughout the world, with formal programmes of simulator qualification. These regulations, drawn up with the help of the RAeS Flight Simulation Group, ensure consistency for operators, regulators and manufacturers; the status of these regulations is outlined.
The paper concludes by reviewing the lessons learnt by the flight simulation industry over the last thirty years and summaries the potential areas of growth, which will lead to simulation becoming widespread throughout many industries, in addition to the aerospace industry.