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Safer recovery from difficult flight conditions

Aircraft are very safe, but unexpected, extremely difficult flight conditions do happen. Up to now, no simulator has been able to give pilots training that could prepare them realistically for situations like these. The SUPRA project has succeeded in building a flight simulator to train pilots for harsh conditions.

Up to now, no simulator has been able to give pilots training that could prepare them realistically for upsets. Without it, a pilot’s perception of a real-life situation (the plane’s speed, angle, g-forces, etc.) might not fully agree with the actual state of affairs in complicated flight conditions.

Coordinator of the SUPRA project, Eric Groen, gives an example: ‘A pilot with little or no experience of feeling g-forces in a real aircraft will be overwhelmed by g-forces when he first feels them. If we give this pilot the task of pulling 2g, he will probably be over-conservative and pull only 1.5g. That might be insufficient to recover from a dangerous situation.’

Understandably, dangerous situations cannot be practised in real aircraft. Ground-based simulators used for pilot training in turn are unable to reproduce either the flight dynamics or the motion cues during extreme manoeuvres.

After three years of complex mathematical calculations, the SUPRA researchers are now able to simulate accurate and realistic upset scenarios in advanced simulators. The DESDEMONA simulator is capable of reproducing sustained g-loads of up to 3g. For upset recovery simulation, this is a major improvement over conventional simulators which cannot exceed normal earth gravity for longer than fractions of a second.

The SUPRA research project is not only a first in having built advanced flight simulators, but also an example of close international cooperation between European researchers and their Russian counterparts. Russia has many highly qualified aeronautics experts, combined with unequalled aeronautical research facilities that allow specialised testing. International cooperation opens the door for sharing knowledge and facilities, which is essential for the best results.