The aerial firefighting community has a new tool to assist in its operations with the advent of the first ever Full Flight Simulator (FFS) for the CL-415 fleet of aerial firefighting aircraft, according to Thomas Allen, Vice-President for Engineering and Innovation, TRU Simulation + Training
Developed by TRU Simulation + Training and installed at Ansett Aviation’s training centre in Milan, Italy, the CL-415 Level D FFS fills a pressing need to improve the quality of training and safety on the aircraft. The device received European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Level D certification and pilot training operations commenced in December 2018.
A new era has begun
Heretofore, training on the CL-415 had been completed via live flying in the aircraft itself, creating a significant safety hazard due to the types of missions that are performed in a waterbomber. TRU stepped in with a goal to provide pilots of the 164 CL-415 aircraft fleet – most of which are in Europe and North America – with a safer and realistic training experience.
In addition to providing a safe, true-to-life training environment for pilots to practise the difficult missions of scooping and dropping water in rugged terrain, simulator training offers other significant benefits, chief among which is reduced wear and tear on the aircraft and associated higher aircraft availability rates, as well as lower fuel costs and higher quality training to the pilots. The CL-415 gained greater notoriety and importance as a key firefighting waterbomber aircraft during the recent wildfires that swept through Europe, Canada and the western US; increased aircraft availability would have helped firefighters on the ground in battling those fires.
TRU’s work on the CL-415 simulator builds on previous company experience in challenging flight simulation development programs, including development of a FFS for the Twin Otter 400 amphibious aircraft which was provided to the model’s OEM Viking Air in 2017, the same company which now owns rights to the CL-415 program. TRU is also renowned for work on other first-of-a-kind simulator and training programs, including in the commercial aviation area with the first FFS in development for the Boeing 777x airliner program.
The CL-415 program’s challenges, however, were distinctly bigger, bolder and beyond any flight simulator that existed in the commercial aviation space as they had to address the forces of air, fire and water. TRU’s Montreal, Canada-based team of experts in mechanical engineering, hardware and software development and aerodynamics set out to tackle the challenge. Aside from traditional flight dynamics, the program addressed added complexities of floating on water, requiring understanding of a full 360-degree aerodynamic model, including crosswinds and tail winds, with possibly inverted flow over flight control surfaces, as well as weather-cocking and sailing movements. Furthermore, the simulator replicates fire effects and visuals, as well as the auditory experience of replicating the CL-415’s noticeably loud 75+ decibel level.
The result was a flight simulator which offers training across all the CL-415 mission scenarios, including water scooping and water landing, as well as water take-off and taxiing. For the portion of the mission that involves flight over and around fire, the FFS can simulate four different shapes of fires, four separate intensity levels of forest fire, and shifting fire conditions, as well as wind gusts and three-dimensional dynamics waves, for a truly realistic training experience.