The skies the limit for Schneider Electric’s range of industrial solutions following a project with British Airways Flight Training to modernise and improve its training facilities, without incurring sky high costs.
British Airways Flight Training facility at Heathrow Airport is the biggest of its kind in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. It contains highly sophisticated aircraft simulators, which are used to train pilots and cabin crew. British Airways has continued their engineering excellence working with Schneider Electric to control simulator environments without the astronomical costs associated with maintaining old systems.
Together, both companies have developed unique and innovative applications for products originally designed for industrial or commercial use.
Both full motion and fixed-based simulators are used to allow crews to practise a full range of scenarios in cabin and flight deck environments. The vast facility includes 19 flight simulators for essential pilot training, plus aircraft cabin simulators, numerous classrooms and two fire training suites.
With training ongoing seven days a week and hundreds of crews passing through its doors daily, the purpose of the facility is to provide training scenario’s that simulate the types of situations that the crews may encounter during a flight. To ensure the training is effective and make the crews feel that they are in a genuine aircraft, everything within the training environment must replicate that of a real aeroplane.
The original training facility was built in the 1950s and has been continually evolved and updated in line with training requirements and technology. Using real aircraft for training purposes has long been prohibitive in terms of costs, so British Airways have become more ingenious in the build and design of training devices to ensure they continue to offer first-class training facilities at a fraction of the cost of using real aircraft. Schneider Electric’s Technical Engineers have worked with British Airways to create innovative systems for controlling these training devices.
After identifying specific elements of the aircraft cabin simulators that could be constructed in-house, the British Airways’ team met with Schneider Electric to pinpoint exactly where and how their products could be integrated.
For example the control panel by the main door of the Boeing 747 Cabin Simulator which is used to control the sophisticated cabin lighting on the aircraft, looks and feels exactly like the real thing. However, the panel has actually been created by British Airways’ Engineers and on closer inspection it is only the outer shell that is genuine. Schneider Electric’s Human Machine Interface (HMI) screen has been built-in underneath the panels’ outer casing to give the operators the same control as on the real aircraft.
In addition, Schneider Electric’s display screens have also been hidden behind the aircraft’s windows to simulate some of the hazards that may occur in the outside world, creating a more realistic environment for the cabin crews that are being trainied.
Controlling the training facilities, from the smoke in the cabin simulators right through to the lighting, is Schneider Electric’s Modicon M340 PLC. This user-friendly programmable controller has given British Airways greater capabilities and control over specific simulation scenarios.
Stuart Foster of Schneider Electric adds: “The creation of these hybrid systems has purely been a product of British Airways’ own ingenuity, and it’s something we have welcomed and actively played a part in. Despite the equipment being originally designed for use in factories and plants, these projects have demonstrated how their scope can be broadened to more niche applications.”
As the aviation industry continues to advance and move forward, so too does the need to improve the training facilities. To keep up with these requirements, evolving our facilities is an ongoing process that requires the BA Engineers and suppliers to think outside of the box in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency and advance the capabilities of the training centre. British Airways has built a strong working partnership with the team at Schneider Electric who are open to new ideas and applications for their range of products.”