Under contract to Alenia Marconi Systems the VP Defence subsidiary of Virtalis was subcontracted to develop the avionics training simulator for the Tornado Maintenance School (TMS) at RAF Marham.
This system has now been in continuous and successful use since 1999. The system is hosted on a Windows NT system and features three screens per workstation, each displaying different working views of the aircraft, avionics bays, Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) and fully functional test equipment.
SIMULTANEOUS TRAINING & COLLABORATION
Ten workstations were produced, fully networked, allowing a minimum of eight students to be trained and supervised by two instructors in basic and advanced Tornado F3 avionics maintenance routines, with collaboration between students supported over the local area network as necessary.
As well as the virtual aircraft shell itself (around which students are free to move), all moving surfaces are present, as are internal and external aircraft systems connector points. Full cockpit detail and functionality has also been delivered, for both the pilot and navigator positions. To produce this level of visual and interactive fidelity, five Virtalis developers spent a week creating digital still and video footage, plus 1,300 film images of an F3 Tornado.
VIRTUAL TORNADO TRAINING
Over 450 LRUs feature in the simulation, located in equipment bays around the aircraft and as control and display units within the cockpit. Once the TMS trainers have programmed individual faults or sequences of faults, the students can explore the aircraft, opening hinged panels and selecting LRUs for removal, inspection and test using any of around 50 additional virtual test sets. Every control input made by the trainee results in a realistic and accurate change of state within the virtual Tornado, be it the movement of external flight surfaces or even the illumination of individual LRU/test indicators.
ATF has, since its operational debut in 1999, reduced training time from 13 to nine weeks and downtime – time in which the waiting students do nothing – from three to zero weeks. The TMS Marham trainers believe the course could be shortened even further, but are reluctant to do so, choosing instead to increase course content and promote retention through “consolidation breaks” and extra-mural self-pace refresh trials.
Feedback from the Marham trainers is that, in contrast to previous courses, ATF students “grasp the concept” (i.e. gain enhanced spatial and procedural knowledge) up to 40% faster than achieved by previous non-ATF students. Of particular interest is the cost of the ATF facility. In total this amounted to just over one-tenth of the cost of previous non-VR set-ups.