HCR_03The Defence Helicopter Flying School, at RAF Shawbury, SARTU (Search and Rescue Training Unit) at RAF Valley and their training service partner are all long time exponents of Virtalis’s Helicopter Crew Reality (HCR) virtual training systems.



HCR now provides a realistic, virtual environment in which the whole crew can develop skills in team-wide communication during complex training missions.

Students and instructors rehearse actual planned sorties. As visual cues are so vital to the rear crew when they communicate with the pilot, HCR boasts accurate shadows, a realistic sea and even the movement of wind over grass. Scenario controls allow instructors to alter the weather conditions and the light levels associated with different times of the day and night. HCR also has a unique winch function, allowing crew to practice winch drills, verbal pre-load checks and load jettisoning. Although initially, HCR is always used with an instructor to both guide the students and debrief them on their performance, more advanced students regularly use HCR on their own, something that is only possible in a virtual environment.


“Helicopter Crew Reality helps people to learn to use the right words and do the correct checks at the right time, so that they become a conditioned reflex, enabling everyone on board to get the most out of their actual sorties and reinforcing the lessons learnt when flying. Our course has been revised so that now we teach first, then the students practise in the VR environment, before flying the mission for real. Although the number of core flying hours on the course remains unchanged, the remedial hours have reduced from an average of 15 hours down to 12 and refly rates have dropped considerably.”

Squadron Leader Sue Brown, who heads up the RAF’s SARTU

“Since the inception of Helicopter Crew Reality, when placed in real helicopters, student rear crew have a better understanding of what they are seeing and doing. The mission play back function is particularly useful, as, during debrief, we can show them where they have been making errors.”

Squadron Leader Harry Palmer, Officer in Command of 60 Squadron

“It is Windows-based and therefore very user friendly. The kit is available to the students 24 hours a day and they tend to work in pairs and critique each other.”

Flight Sergeant Phil Davies, Project Officer for Helicopter Crew Reality at RAF Shawbury

 “I would estimate that for the individual modules within our course, which is the longest in the RAF, we have gone from a 20% failure rate to a 5% failure rate since our students began using the Virtalis system. We are working closely with Virtalis to add even greater realism and more function. For example, only 25% of those who apply make it onto our course. We believe that a VR-based assessment test could prove to be a first-rate way of sifting out those least suited to the rearcrew role.”

Master Aircrew (MACR) Mark O’Leary, Rearcrew CFS Agent at SARTU

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