We’ll admit it up front, without equivocation—we think flight simulators have improved the quality and safety of flight training substantially. We’ve seen the benefits for everyone from just starting out student pilots through grizzled veterans doing recurrent training.
That’s why we are interested in the attractively-priced sims developed by one-G simulation, a Seattle-based company. We think they hold promise to make high-quality simulator training available to more pilots in more areas at attractive hourly rates.
one-G simulation was founded by Xylon Saltzman, who started his professional life as an engineer, architect and business developer and then expanded his horizons into aviation. From flying recreationally, Saltzman eventually became a flight instructor and charter pilot. As an instructor, he was frustrated with the lack of affordable, effective training devices for primary and instrument students. The clich about a cockpit being a lousy classroom has long been shown to be true. Saltzman decided to do something about it. Drawing on his engineering and software experience, he designed and built a simulator—as may be required by law in Seattle—in his garage. It proved popular. He decided to seek FAA approval for the simulator as an AATD (Advanced Aviation Training Device)—and obtained it in 2011.
FAA approval as an AATD means that the simulator has enough fidelity to the real world to allow some or all of the time flying it to be logged toward a rating or staying current on instruments. In general, it is possible to do all of one’s recurrent instrument training in an AATD and to log as much as 10 hours toward an instrument rating and 2.5 hours toward the private. (The credit toward an instrument rating may yet become 20 hours, but that’s on hold right now.)
Saltzman’s original simulator, the flagship, modeled the Beech Bonanza. It has been upgraded substantially to the point that it now includes 180-degree, wrap around visuals and can model the Baron with some quick changes to the power quadrant and panel.
The company Saltzman founded, one-G simulation, does all of its software development and hardware development and manufacturing in house with dedicated CAD-CAM equipment and CNC machines. The employees he’s hired are all pilots (two are students). Using advanced algorithms and angle of attack, rather than airspeed, performance modeling, the company targets accurate, model-specific simulation and feedback. When flying the flagship simulator, it should feel and perform like a Bonanza or Baron. That’s true for the two other simulators in its product line, the foundation (Cessna 172) and tarbes 7 (Socata TBM 700)—both of which are also FAA-approved AATDs.
In addition, one-G simulation developed and received FAA approval for what it calls the 1-G650 emulator, which essentially duplicates the operation of the Garmin GTN series navigators. By using an emulator, the sim user gets the experience of using a GTN navigator without the cost that installing a Garmin G650 in the simulator. For example, the foundation (Cessna) simulator, with a 1-G650 emulator installed, is priced at $30,000 with a single-screen visual display.
The foundation simulator is designed so that they can be placed in a classroom setting. Each sim’s visual display screen can be rolled up out of the way so each student can see the instructor. The instructor’s station can handle several simulators at once. Further, the foundation was designed so that the simulator will fit through a doorway, reducing the time and cost to install one, or several, at a flight school. Saltzman said that one of the company’s goals is to make it cost effective for a student to start flight training from day one in a simulator—as Saltzman put it, “to train in an environment conducive to learning.”
Saltzman told us that, “The more time spent in an accurate AATD the better, for any pilot.” He also emphasized the value of type-specific simulation for initial and recurrent training in an aircraft. Accordingly, the company also developed the tarbes 7 simulator for the TBM 700, one of the most popular, high-performance turboprops on the market and expanded the capability of the foundation simulator to include the Cessna 172RG, 182 and 182RG.
For both initial and recurrent training, the one-G simulation sims are designed for programs that emphasize scenario-based training, risk assessment and real-world weather scenarios.
All of the simulators use panels made up of LEDs and LCDs—solid state technology, so there are minimal moving parts, meaning fewer parts to break. Saltzman told us that all three simulator designs have been through several thousand hours of Beta testing with few adjustments needed. Having in-house software and hardware development and manufacturing has allowed rapid changes in design when issues were discovered.
The fixed base (no motion) for each simulator has proven to be a plus when it comes to reliability. In a review of simulators in sister publication Aviation Consumer, we found no data that simulator motion is of significant value in initial or recurrent training, so we’re all for keeping costs down and reducing the need for maintenance by using a fixed-base simulator.
The warranty for one-G simulation’s sims is one year on both software and hardware, with extended warranties available. Software fixes can be carried out remotely from Seattle, speeding any such needed repairs.
The flagship (Bonanza/Baron) simulator is priced at $85,000 and the tarbes 7 (TBM 700) at $149,000. There are few options—the base price is for what Saltzman described as a full-featured simulator.
Saltzman wants to provide a way for every instrument pilot to spend some time in one of his company’s sims every month to stay sharp by doing realistic risk management, weather and emergency scenarios at an affordable cost. As part of this vision, in addition to keeping costs down for initial rating training in a simulator, he said the company will be rolling out a no-risk simulator access program for FBOs and flight schools in the next few months. one-G simulation will provide, foundation simulators through a program in which the FBO or flight school will only be billed for actual use of the simulator. Of course use will be monitored remotely, but there will be no fixed cost for having the simulator on the premises.
We like the idea that a flight school can have a high-quality AATD on the premises for about the price of a good, used Cessna 152—without any maintenance cost for the first year. From the basic standpoint that a simulator allows a pilot safely practice in-flight emergencies as well as get in a number of approaches in a fraction of the time it takes in an airplane, we like simulators. The more they show fidelity to the airplanes they model, the better we like them. If high-fidelity simulators are available to the aviation community at an attractive price, the attraction of the safety and efficiency they offer could be truly impressive.
We’re looking forward to the rollout of the no-risk access program for the foundation simulator. All things considered, we can’t think of any reason why a flight school would not immediately take advantage of it to improve the quality of its instruction and up its income at what appears to be little financial risk.
Rick Durden is the Features editor of AVweb. He is an ATP and CFI with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation 500 series and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vol I. Volume 2 is due out soon.