Highly trained cockpit crews are fundamental for performing helicopter flights safely – that applies just as much to transport flights as to rescue missions. In a simulator, helicopter pilots have the opportunity to efficiently practise standard situations as well as emergency procedures that would hardly – or not at all – be possible to train in real life. Moreover, on doing so, they neither generate noise nor pollute the environment. Simulator training is therefore an important part of basic and further pilot training, as well as of flight safety.
Better quality of training coupled with lower costs
Nowadays, recruiting experienced helicopter pilots in Switzerland poses a major challenge and will become even more difficult in future. One reason for this is the high costs involved in training people to become helicopter pilots. The new simulator enables Swiss Helicopter AG and Rega not only to increase the quality of the training, but also to reduce both costs and the impact on the environment resulting from noise and pollution. With this joint investment in helicopter pilot training in Switzerland, the two organisations are sending an important signal and making a further contribution towards ensuring that in future, too, a sufficient number of experienced pilots can be recruited for the demanding work in the spheres of commercial helicopter operations or air rescue.
One platform for various cockpits
The new helicopter simulator is a so-called Full Flight Simulator (FFS), Level D, from the German firm, Reiser Simulation and Training. The letter “D” stands for the currently highest certification category. The simulator comprises two components: a motion platform, which translates the pilot’s steering manoeuvres into authentic flight movements with the aid of electric motors, and a true-to-life replica cockpit, which can be moved along tracks onto the motion platform. Thanks to this “roll-on/roll-off” system, cockpits of different helicopter types can be used on the same platform. Unlike virtual reality simulators, which are now also being built with motion platforms, a full flight simulator features a true-to-detail replica of the cockpit with all the physical buttons and switches. Thanks to this haptic experience, movement sequences, for instance, can be trained more effectively.
Interchangeable cockpits for the Airbus H125/H145 and Leonardo AW169 helicopter types
The Airbus H125 helicopter is arguably the mostly widely used helicopter type in Switzerland. Swiss Helicopter operates around 20 helicopters of this type, which are deployed for passenger and transport flights. Rega owns one H125, which is used to train up-and-coming young pilots to perform missions in mountainous regions and with external loads. Besides the H125 cockpit, Rega is also procuring an H145 cockpit, in which its crews can undergo training for Rega’s new, five-bladed H145 helicopter. Rega plans to modernise its fleet with 21 rescue helicopters of this type by 2026. The Leonardo AW169 cockpit, which has also been ordered, will be available to third parties for training purposes. The new simulator system is scheduled to go into operation at Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) in Opfikon in mid-2023. LAT will operate the state-of-the-art training device and also offer any free capacity to third parties.
Rega’s training programme for helicopter pilots
Rega promotes up-and-coming helicopter pilots that have been specially selected by Swiss helicopter firms through its inhouse trainee programme. The objective is to support potential candidates in their desire to work as a professional helicopter pilot. This support is provided primarily to young talent without flying experience; however, in principle qualified helicopter pilots can also be accepted on the programme as part of their personal further aviation training. Candidates are only eligible for the selection process if they are in possession of an employment contract from a Swiss partner helicopter firm. Further information can be found here: Nachwuchsprogramm für Helikopterpiloten
About Swiss Helicopter AG
Swiss Helicopter AG is a Swiss aviation firm and flight school domiciled in Chur. It was founded in 2012 and offers various helicopter services. Its core competences lie in the fields of passenger flights, transport flights and pilot training. Swiss Helicopter AG employs around 150 members of staff at 15 bases located throughout Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein.