KLM will start on 5 November with virtual reality training for pilots flying the Embraer 175 and 190, two relatively small jet aircraft used by subsidiary KLM Cityhopper.
KLM describes that the VR training courses are a supplement to the existing training program. The goal is to use the training time more effectively and costs are also saved. The idea is that the time in the simulator is shortened because the pilots get used to the cockpit via the VR application.
The application concerns the so-called Type Rating Course, where pilots are introduced to the specific characteristics of the aircraft type with which they are going to fly. There are three parts. For example, there is a part where the pilot sits in a virtual cockpit with an interactive image of the control panels and screens. Checklists and background information are also visible, so that the pilots receive instructions during practice. Second, there is an instructional video in the form of a 360-degree film to watch a flight from the cockpit. This is a flight from Schiphol to Basel. Finally, static 360-degree photos are available so that the pilot can walk through the aircraft and view and inspect the exterior as well. It is not yet possible to fly interactively in this VR application.
Senior instructor Ernst Pontier explains to Luchtvaartnieuws that the aim is to allow pilots to practice the so-called Standard Operating Procedures in a realistic manner. “That is a set of standard procedures that every pilot follows. That way we can guarantee safety”. Pilots could also practice all these SOPs in the home situation, but that was still done with posters with overviews of the various control panels. “Via virtual reality, they can now experience even better how the procedures work and how the cockpit feels spatial. For example, in some cases you have to stretch out considerably to get to a certain switch. You don’t experience that feeling with a poster,” says Pontier. .
Currently, sixteen procedures are available for practice. “This varies from starting or stopping the engines to an engine fire or an evacuation on the ground,” explains Pontier. Some procedures require two pilots and this can also be practiced with the VR application, by using a virtual pilot. There is also a special application in which pilots walk around the aircraft for an inspection round, whereby attention must be paid to any damage or leaks.
According to NH Nieuws, this virtual home training is only open to graduated pilots or pilots who are retrained to fly the Embraer 175 or 190 and thus flew on a different type of aircraft. This retraining will probably occur more often in the near future, because the corona crisis makes it difficult to fill KLM’s larger Boeing 737s and Airbus 330s. The Embraer 175 and 190 can accommodate 88 and 100 passengers respectively. KLM has 32 Embraer type 190 aircraft and 17 Embraer 175 aircraft. These aircraft, which are mainly used for relatively short flights to European cities, use two-row seat configurations, each with two seats next to each other.