Flight training ‘full on’

March 30, 2011

Redbird Flight Simulation’s FMX full-motion simulator with wrap-around visual screens
Redbird Flight Simulation’s FMX full-motion simulator with wrap-around visual screens.

As Charlie Gregoire pulls back on the yoke to initiate a stall/spin, a momentary “uh oh” runs through the mind. Seatbelts are not fastened. Too late. The nose pitches down violently as the spin rotation begins. Thankfully, that’s when the comfort and safety of sitting in a simulator sinks into reality.

Gregoire is demonstrating the ability of Redbird Flight Simulations' FMX full-motion simulator with wrap-around visual screens. While the simulator only pitches 25 degrees up or down, banks 20 degrees left or right, and 30 degrees to either side for yaw, the sensations make the pilot feel as if he or she is doing the maneuvers in an actual aircraft—without pitch or roll limitations. Control forces also add to the authenticity of the experience. It simulates every sensation but the G force.

“As a flight training device, people love it—flight schools love it; instructors love it,” according to Gregoire, Redbird Flight Simulations vice president of sales, marketing, and services. The company has delivered more than 150 of the FMX simulators, he said.

  Redbird stationed a simulator in AOPA’s tent as part of the Learn to Fly Center at Sun ’n Fun.
Redbird stationed a simulator in AOPA’s tent as part of the Learn to Fly Center at Sun ’n Fun.

Redbird stationed a simulator in AOPA’s tent as part of the Learn to Fly Center at Sun ’n Fun to give prospective students and pilots a chance at the controls with an instructor by their side.

Fifteen-year-old Paul Lampasso of Palm Harbor, Fla., is planning to begin flying lessons once his father earns his flight instructor certificate. He’s grown up flying computer simulators, and he’s practiced in full-motion simulators as well as actual airplanes. But Redbird stood apart in his mind.

“This is full on. You’re tilting. You can feel everything,” said fifteen-year-old Paul Lampasso.
“This is full on. ... You can feel everything," said 15-year-old Paul Lampasso.

“This is full on. You’re tilting. You can feel everything,” he said, explaining that a gust of wind on a computer simulator is merely reflected on the instruments, whereas the same gust on a Redbird simulator provides the drifting sensation experienced in a real aircraft. “You know, ‘Oh, that’s a gust,’ you gotta correct.”

The simulator can be a less intimidating introduction to aviation, and it can help students learn the fundamentals of flight without the expense of renting an aircraft.

Several members of the Civil Air Patrol’s Southeast Region Florida 809 wing tried their hand at the simulator. The cadets are working at Sun ’n Fun at the CAP static display, recruitment booth, drug demand reduction booth, and FAA Production Studios building. While one cadet has already experienced a CAP orientation flight, this was the first opportunity for the other sixth and seventh graders to experience flight, so to speak. They’ll get the chance to go up for real April 9 during another orientation flight. And nothing compares to the real thing, according to Lampasso.

“[The Redbird device] definitely gives you a feel for flying the aircraft rather than sitting at your computer on a simulator,” Lampasso said. However, “there’s nothing like flying in an airplane.”

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Miller | AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.