The first time Frank Arrestier stepped into a simulator was in the late 1990s, when he tested an FNPT flight trainer at Thales Training & Simulation's Cergy facility near Paris. Since then, he has never looked back. Today, he is totally convinced of the virtues of flight simulators for training helicopter crews
"Simulators are powerful, flexible solutions that offer highly realistic training environments. Pilots gain experience with all types of situations without taking unnecessary risks or putting their lives in danger."
What Franck Arrestier likes most
"Simulators let you program a wide variety of flight scenarios covering any type of mission in any type of terrain, including mountainous areas. You can put yourself in the most critical situations and practise emergency procedures in complete safety. When you're flying a real helicopter, it's nearly impossible to simulate a major failure. But you can in a simulator, and that's a major plus point. I experienced my first tail rotor failure in a Reality H simulator!
Another major benefit is cost. Simulators put pilots through a whole range of different scenarios, which would be extremely costly and risky in a real helicopter. Autorotation is a good example. You need to disengage the engine from the main rotor and it's a highly risky operation for the helicopter and crew.
Simulator-based training also allows helicopter operators to make the most of their training budgets. It doesn't impact fleet availability because helicopters are free to fly their missions while training exercises are taking place."
A final word
"Just like airline pilots, helicopter pilots will need to spend more time in simulators in the future to meet the need for continuous training and compliance with regulations. Simulators are a vital complement to real-life training. They offer a huge range of simulated environments and scenarios, including equipment failures and emergency procedures, and provide in-depth training safely and affordably.
Simulation has a major role to play in improving flight safety — which is obviously the key concern of helicopter pilots, operators and the authorities."Frank Arrestier has been a professional helicopter pilot for 28 years. He is best known for his work with Yann Arthus Bertrand on the Earth from Above and Home aerial photography projects, and for his coverage of the Paris-Dakar, Tour de France and other events. He has logged more than 11,500 flight hours to date and has flown in 66 countries.
Reality H: dedicated to complex mission trainingThales offers a comprehensive range of solutions, from highly affordable Computer-Based Training (CBT) for aircrews and maintenance teams to full-mission training solutions including the training infrastructure, instructors and logistics support for all types of operations. Reality H is the most advanced civil helicopter simulator on the market today. It delivers high-quality training and improved operational efficiency, supported by a powerful image-generation system, full instructor control and high-accuracy motion system and controls. The simulator's training capabilities in synthetic environments are particularly suited to complex missions such as search & rescue, oil & gas exploration and medical airlift.
Franck Arrestier in the Reality H simulator
Photos credit: copyright Thales