Flight simulators give pilots real training

Updated: 2012-05-02 07:37

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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China's air force is expanding the use of flight simulation technology to hone fighter pilots' skills and air battle tactics.

One of the earliest institutes to study flight simulation in China, the Flight Simulation Technology Research Institute of the Air Force is now able to develop simulators of the latest fighter jets that China produces, said Xie Donglai, head of the institute.

Flight simulators give pilots real training

Pilots in Harbin, in Heilongjiang province, practice skills in a flight simulator, which can simulate bad weather, engine failure and other special situations. Tan Chao / for China Daily

"Flight simulators are playing a more important role in military training around the world," he said.

The United States was the first to use flight simulators to train pilots. The US air force found that an hour's training in a simulator has an effect equal to that of training in a real fighter jet for 0.5 to 0.9 hours.

China's air force began to train fighter pilots with simulators a decade ago.

So far, the institute alone has given at least 70 simulators to the air force and other units, which have provided 15,000 hours of training since 2002, according to the institute.

"That means huge amounts of training costs were saved," he said. Thanks to simulators, pilots can quickly master flying skills necessary for a certain type of fighter jet.

Guo Lei, director of the institute's simulation training center, said that a number of pilots who flew the first-generation of fighters spent more than 50 days in simulators and made a successful transition to flying third-generation fighters.

Also, the equipment can simulate bad weather, engine failure and other special situations, and teach pilots how to handle them, which training on real fighter jets cannot do, Xie said.

"A fighter plane could cost from tens of millions of yuan to hundreds of millions of yuan. Using fighter jets for special training is unlikely, because people could die and planes could crash, if things are not handled well," he said.

And the special training through a simulator can also prepare fighter pilots to make quicker responses to unexpected situations in real flights.

He recalled that a few years ago, when the navy was equipped with a type of third-generation fighter, a pilot encountered a rare engine failure on the aircraft's first flight.

Fortunately, the previous simulation training had prepared the pilot for such a special situation, and he returned safely.

The simulators also allow airmen to practice shooting missiles, which are so expensive that pilots are reluctant to fire them in real aircraft practice, he said.

Researchers in recent years looked to develop new simulation technologies to prepare pilots for air battles.

In one of the latest developments, the institute has developed a system in which pilots can challenge the world's major fighter jets alone or in joint force.

The system took the institute three years to develop, as airmen previously complained to researchers that the rival jets did not seem real in previous simulators, he said.

The system has been welcomed by pilots and was later awarded a top prize related to military science and technology.

Contact the writer at xindingding@chinadaily.com.cn