A Kiwi flight management software company is set for take-off after selling its first program to British Aerospace Systems.
Command Fliteware International of Auckland has developed the software and hardware.
Unlike existing simulators, which move up and down on legs and can cost up to $15 million, the Auckland product is fixed. This makes it much cheaper, allowing airlines and aircraft manufacturers to slash pilot training costs, the company claims.
"Our fixed-base trainers are about $20,000. And they can cut simulator time's costs from $5000 an hour to about $200," says director Graeme Rodgers.
Rodgers and his business partner, Barry Adam, a former Canadian Forces pilot and retired Air New Zealand simulator (pilot) instructor, have replicated the equipment in Boeing 747-400s, "as pilots would see them in the cockpit".
The equipment is fitted into simulator cockpits being developed by a group of manufacturers in Austria, Ireland, the US and Britain.
"It's a glass cockpit, with TV-like displays on the control panel in front of the pilots, rather than the old analogue cockpits, which are all dials," he says.
Rodgers says the system's biggest advantage over other simulation gear is its simplicity.
"It can run on a couple of PCs on a desktop. A pilot could sit at home with a joystick and the manuals and do it."
It also allows trainers to do psychological tests on aircrew, he says.
"By using lasers they can detect head and eye-movements, and the retina of the eyes is caught on databases."
The pair program in DOS as he says it does not have the “hassle” of Windows and it easily allows navigational data flow from one PC to another.
Rodgers says the business started as a hobby three years ago, but a customer of British Aerospace invited him to Austria to talk about software and then he was invited to Britain.
"British Aerospace asked me to produce a replica of the flight management computer - the display unit - and produce software as well," he says.
The system is used in the Airbus A320 and could be extended to the A340 and A3XX “Superjumbo”.
The project to develop the simulator was supported by Technology New Zealand, which invests in research into new products, processes or services.
Rodgers says Technology New Zealand's help added to Command Fliteware's credibility when dealing with Rockwell-Collins, the biggest aeronautical instruments maker in the US. More details at www.technz.co.nz.