Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres any pilot will undertake. Along with the visible risk of the vessel’s movement on the sea, comes the unseen risk of turbulence and vortices created by airflow around carrier islands or other on-deck structures.
Previously, the first time a pilot experienced wind buffeting from this turbulence would have been their first landing onboard. However, BAE Systems has now addressed this problem by allowing pilots to experience this buffeting in simulation, better preparing them for this challenging and dangerous operation.
We’re now at a point where our simulation capability and flying in the real world are becoming almost indistinguishable.
David Atkinson, Engineering Fellow, Aircraft-Ship Integration Lead.
Working with the University of Liverpool, we have used computational fluid dynamics to understand, model and predict the airflows around aircraft carrier islands and the wake impact for aircraft. This dynamic model is one of the most sophisticated airflow models ever created.
For the first time, increased computing power allows us to use our model dynamically in real-time, integrating it into a motion flight simulator to fully replicate the experience of landing F-35 on an aircraft carrier. We can run simulations that provide realistic cues and workload for pilots, buffeting and moving the aircraft exactly as it would in the real world. We can vary ship motions, wind strengths and directions, reflecting realistic operational conditions in real-time.
The simulation is so accurate that US pilots travel to Lancashire to conduct flight trials on our simulator. It is difficult to imagine a more realistic experience beyond flying the actual aircraft, with feedback gained from pilots in the simulator being fed back into systems design. The simulator and associated capabilities are held in such high regard, that senior simulation engineer Dr Steve Hodge, and the team responsible, won a Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Medal and Team Silver Medal for their work in this area.
Our team is at the forefront of both air-wake and simulation technology. Modelling the air spilling off and around structures could be used for any other type of military or commercial flight training, such as helicopters approaching tall buildings or oil rigs. Simulations using virtual and augmented reality provide a much more cost-effective means to train pilots or rehearse missions.
“We’re now at a point where our simulation capability and flying in the real world are becoming almost indistinguishable.” David Atkinson, Engineering Fellow, Aircraft-Ship Integration Lead.
We are also now exploring novel ways to use ‘voice’ within the simulation environment and for pilots to interact with ship-based colleagues for even more realism in training. Overall, we are delivering solutions that ensure our pilots are fundamentally better prepared for the situations they will face in real-world flying.