Have you ever wondered how it feels like to fly your very own airplane? Traditionally, one would have to sign up for a pilot training course and undergo a rigorous training program. However, through innovation and advancement in technology, this need not be the only route to experience “real” flying. No doubt by now you would have guessed that this article is about flight simulators, but it’s not just about any flight simulator – it’s about the Redbird.
Redbird founder, Jerry Gregoire, a former PepsiCola and Dell executive, was doing recurrent training in Level D simulators for years. (Recurrent training is required for pilots to ensure that they have retained the skills required to operate complex airplanes; while a Level D simulator is a full motion simulator used by airlines and business jet operators to train pilots to operate these types of complicated aircraft).One day, as Gregoire was just getting out of a $10 million Level “D” Cessna Citation Jet simulator, he had a notion that he could build something like that but for a lot less. With the business experience and the wherewithal to do something about it, the Redbird was born.
The Redbirds are the real McCoy. These Advanced Aircraft Training Devices (AATDs) can be used to build hours towards pilot certificates and many pilot training centres use the Redbirds as part of their training program. Redbird is doing things in ingenious ways, and the panel is a good place to start. It made cockpits and instruments very similar (though not quite identical) to existing airplanes and made just about everything in the package interchangeable. It’s an ingenious solution to make the simulator modular. For instance, the throttle quadrant is installed in a slide-box, sort of like a radio, that may be pulled out and replaced with a different configuration. Likewise, the yokes are interchangeable, so one can go from a Cessna 182 to a Cirrus SR22 control interface in the blink of an eye. The real magic, though, is found in the panel. Redbird uses a clear, acrylic overlay that simulates the panel of the airplane chosen. Redbird mounts instrument bezels on top of the acrylics. The bezels have all the same kinds of buttons and knobs as the original does, even though they are made with commercial off-the-shelf parts. These instrument bezels then control circuit boards imbedded within the acrylic. Mounted behind the clear “panel” are a pair of LCDs driven by the flight-sim computer that mimic the displays of the instruments, such as the Airspeed Indicator and Altimeter and even the radios and navigation equipment such as the Garmin 430. The brain behind the Redbird sim is Lockheed-Martin’s Prepar3D, a commercial flight-simulation back end that is used in a number of military and commercial simulation applications.
I got a chance to try my hand on a Redbird SD, which was newly installed in Adventure Flight Education Sport’s hangar at the Mactan Cebu International Airport, General Aviation Area. This one playing the role of a Cessna 172 training aircraft. A flight instructor was in the right seat, operating the instructor’s module, a tablet stylus-controlled PC computer that’s attached to the sim computer.
The view outside is simulated by the use of six LCD monitors, and the effect is very convincing. Each monitor is run by its own high-performance graphics card, and it shows. The motion of the scenery is smooth and natural, and the background detail is good if not always completely realistic. Other details, including runway and taxiway markings, were superb. The flying experience was impressive. It flew very much like a real airplane. I did a few steep turns, which I found to be quite realistic and confirmed that I am indeed a bit rusty on my air work. I even put the virtual plane into a spin, and it responded in a similar fashion to the real airplane, though we weren’t actually spinning. On approach back to Mactan, I was impressed by the weather modelling and the turbulence effect. It was a good workout, and I came away convinced that this is a great training device for would be pilots to get a real sense of what flying feels like. Redbird simulators are likely to change the way pilots train and the way flight schools teach.
For a closer view of the Redbird SD, and for inquiries on private pilot license course, commercial pilot license course, flight instructor course, and flight dispatcher course, contact Adventure Flight Education & Sports, Inc. telephone (+63) (32) 268 9829, located at the General Aviation Area, Mactan Cebu International Airport, Lapu Lapu City, Cebu.
Adventure Flight Simulation and Sports
Gen Aviation Road,Hangar #6, Mactan Cebu International Airport, Lapu-Lapu City, Central Visayas, Philippines
(+63) (32) 268 9829 / (+63) 09322689829