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Innovative flight simulator can make air travel safer

27 JUNE 2012 — From now on, it will be easier for pilots to practice flying safely, even in rare but difficult conditions of upset and recovery. The EU-funded SUPRA project developed a new kind of flight simulator that is unique in that it enables pilots to practice potentially dangerous situations that have so far been impossible to simulate. The new flight simulator spins wildly, using advanced algorithms that for the first time are able to give a realistic imitation of the feeling of loss of control in actual flight.

At the project's closing event in Soesterberg, the Netherlands, test pilots testified that the newly developed aerodynamic models and so-called Motion Driving Algorithms result in a virtual flight that feels similar to a real flight.

Dutch research institution TNO - the project coordinator - says that in the last ten years about 30% of fatal accidents with large aircraft were due to pilots losing control of the plane. Attendees to the closing event from the International Air Transport Association, NASA, and several major air carriers and manufacturers agreed that improved pilot training could reduce accidents due to upsets. The European Aviation Safety Agency announced that training for upset recovery might become mandatory within two to three years from now, underlining the relevance of SUPRA's results.

The European Commission will include a topic in its 2013 call for aeronautics and air transport research proposals that will address training needs.

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