The new breed of helicopters coming out of manufacturers stables, are exciting state-of-the-art aircraft. The latest design, technology and engineering providing sleeker, more efficient and comparatively affordable machines; machines that are increasingly sophisticated, having a high level of automation.
It’s all excellent news in increasing accessibility to helicopters as a means of transport, however while it is easy to get carried away by the technological advances the human element also needs to be taken into consideration.
The helicopter industry recognises that there are fundamental differences in the way a pilot needs to interact with automated aircraft and that new skills need to be developed in order to make the most of these clever aircraft.
With the pace of regulatory change lagging by around 13 years in the aviation world, Starspeed decided it needed to address this gap in current pilot training in order to meet its own stringent Safety Plan as well as to meet the safety concerns of the helicopter industry as a whole.
It has developed a new course, training pilots for automation. The first one will take place in the New Year and it has the support of the CAA as well as Starspeed’s insurers, Hayward Aviation Ltd. All Starspeed pilots will attend as part of their Line Training and Continued Professional Development over coming months. And it will be made available to other helicopter operators and pilots.
“The interesting discovery resulting from all the scientific research and years of accident investigation is that automated aircraft are not just different in the design of flying and engine management controls, there are differences in the way a pilot approaches the task of flying,” says Starspeed Director, Simon Mitchell.
“In an automated aircraft, not only is the pilot not sending control inputs directly to flying controls, but these controls can be coupled together in ways unseen by and not obvious to the pilot. Additionally, it is similar to the pilot working with another crew member (albeit an entirely predictable one) in that the pilot’s inputs may be subject to evaluation by the software, and then be modified or even countermanded by the Automatic Flight Control Systems. It is also possible that these systems can initiate entirely independent and autonomous actions to recover or change the flight path of the aircraft (e.g., upset recovery and approach go-around).
“Broadly speaking, the course we have developed is to provide pilots with a new mindset in approaching cockpit management and a better understanding of the science behind automated flight.”
The course will consist of advanced ground instruction followed by practical demonstration and training in the high fidelity FNPT II simulator based at Starspeed Training’s facility at Kemble Airfield.
It has been developed for Starspeed Training by former CAA and EASA Test Pilot, Chris Taylor, who has already successfully developed a good foundation course in Deck Landings.
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