24 October 2008
"Blue Canoes" and Their Progeny
When I started flying for the ARMY we were forced to endure an hours' simulator time a week.
It was a mostly a waste of time.
We called them "Blue Canoes".
Modified WWII "Link" trainers, they were single pilot, the exterior painted royal blue, an almost coffin shaped box. I suppose to make us feel less ridiculous being encased in the thing, they had actually attached a set of stubby yellow wings to the "fuselage".
They started life as fixed wind simulators and had been modified with a collective on the left of the seat for power control, rather than a panel-mounted throttle. They could rotate freely around their yaw axis... their only (terrible) attempt at "motion freedom".
In their defense, they were a good IFR procedures trainer. But putting aviators in a cardboard box and having them respond with the proper language to radio calls over a headset would have been nearly as effective and a whole lot cheaper than the blue canoes.
Shortly after I got home from Viet Nam the ARMY bought and started training in full-motion simulators. What a change! The "box" you climbed into was the size of a small van.
Pilot AND Copilot... the view surrounding you was EXACTLY that of being in a Huey cockpit. The windshield was opaque, simulating actual IFR conditions. When flight simulation started, the box was lifted into the air via a 3-axis hydraulic system. Moving the controls resulted in VERY realistic movement of the hydraulics...
(Once, given a complete loss of tail rotor and gearbox on short final by the operator as a joke, I crashed hard enough to pop both doors of the simulator open!)
These simulators were expensive. As I recall, an operator actually rode herd on a pod of four of them at a time, so operating them also included her/his paycheck.
Still, they were less expensive than actually going out and lighting the fire in a Huey, and a pilot could be given a complete loss of tail rotor and gearbox on short final without fear of loss of aircraft and two pilots. They were worth the cost.
I have NO experience with simulators today, but like you, I've seen videos of them.
Full motion, complete with video surrounding your field of view... they are a quantum leap improvement over the full-motion simulator that was such an improvement over the "blue canoe".
I think I have heard our military aviators now spend almost half their time in these simulators.
I'm sure aviators don't hate them the way we hated the canoe. It's time well spent, and cost effective too.
Darren or anyone else familiar with the new flight simulators...
Educate us please.