The FINANCIAL — KLM subsidiary KLM Cityhopper has a fleet of Embraers serving European destinations. It decided to investigate the capabilities of VR in an effort to respond more flexibly to pilots’ differing training needs.
“Virtual Reality (VR) makes training more accessible. It is on-demand and site-independent – pilots don’t have to be in a classroom or a simulator at a certain time. What’s more, it invites them to explore, something they can do safely in a virtual environment,” says Sebastian Gerkens, Senior Instructor Embraer at KLM Cityhopper. “VR allows pilots to familiarise themselves with the cockpit in advance, so that they make more effective use of their simulator time.”
The new training approach will also generate cost savings, among other things because it cuts down on the number of external suppliers and makes pilot scheduling more flexible.
The VR training courses for the Embraer 175 and 190 were developed by KLM’s own VR experts in cooperation with KLM Cityhopper. Training consists of three applications, all part of the Type Rating Course in which pilots learn the specific characteristics of the aircraft type they are going to fly.
- Virtual cockpit – the pilot is inside the cockpit, i.e. an interactive, computer-generated image of the control panels.
- Instruction video – the pilot watches a 360-degree POV video of a flight from the cockpit jump seat.
- Virtual walkaround – the pilot walks through and around the aircraft, composed of 360-degree static photographs.
“These are also the three different ways to capture content used to create VR applications,” explains Werner Soeteman, manager of the VR Centre Of Excellence at KLM IT. “The interactive virtual cockpit was created on computers entirely by our team of VR developers and 3D designers. To produce the 360-degree video and photographs, one of our VR engineers sat in the cockpit operating an advanced 360-degree camera during a flight, in close cooperation with the KLM Cityhopper pilots. Our developers haven’t the faintest idea how an Embraer works, although they’ve certainly learned a lot.”
KLM has been long been interested in using VR in staff training. For example, it already has VR training courses for maintenance engineers and KLM Cityhopper cabin crew. Now the Embraer 175 and 190 pilots are joining this select company.
The VR courses complement KLM’s existing training programme. KLM Cityhopper is exploring whether it can obtain EASA certification for these courses, which would then eventually replace some of the standard training components, such as classroom instruction, the cockpit poster and textbooks. The safety and quality of training is and naturally always will be top priority.