KLM Cityhopper's VR-tool

Cockpit and cabin
Tech & Data

Before our pilots take to the air, they receive training on the ground. They dive into theory, learn all the start-up procedures, then board our high-tech flight simulators. To make that process more efficient, co-pilots can now practice at home using the VR headset with an identical copy of the Embraer cockpit. Pilot and trainer Ernst Pontier sees only advantages. 'They can train whenever they want and go into the flight simulator much better prepared. Ultimately, that makes for better pilots.'

From cockpit to headset

Ernst is a captain on KLM Cityhopper flights. Besides his own flying hours, he's involved in developing and improving modules on the VR trainer. 'As senior pilots, we all take on a share of responsibility as instructors. In my case, this was twofold: firstly, two other flight service colleagues and I made sure the procedures were realistically displayed in the VR headset. Secondly, we're looking at how best to train future pilots using this tool. Fortunately, we're getting help with this from Learning & Development - for the more educationally focused view.'

Pilot in sim

Practising remotely

The VR headset literally opens a new world for future Embraer pilots. 'Using the headset, they can train wherever and whenever they want,' says Ernst. 'Our co-pilots are all young and they might prefer training in the evening or in half-hour stages. This is ideal, because for the Flat Panel Trainer they have to be at Schiphol and go through the whole series of exercises with their trainer in one go. This takes about three and a half hours during which they mainly go through the procedures that take place on the ground'.

Time to spare

'Just think about starting up the aircraft,' Ernst continues. 'That involves a lot of actions that all have to take place in a specific order. You have to perform these physically on a regular basis - that's how you create muscle memory. You need to have mastered this before entering the simulator, so you can really spend time on the simulations. The high-tech machine can simulate any situation you want, so it's a shame if you spend too much time on the start-up procedures. In short: because co-pilots can train as often as they want with the VR headset, we find that they have much more time left in the simulator to train according to their own needs. So, if they want another landing with crosswinds or an engine fire, then we can do that.'

Currently, we do the sessions half-and-half. The first time, the co-pilots train on the Flat Panel Trainer at Schiphol, then continue practising at home with the VR glasses. Eventually, we want the VR glasses to take over the whole process. That will save some unnecessary trips to Schiphol and give the co-pilots all the time they need to practice extensively.

Ernst, captain Embraer

The VR headset application was built by KLM Cityhopper and then further developed together with aircraft manufacturer Embraer; Ernst explains. 'The technical refinement of the product is still in our hands. Embraer supports us mainly by providing insight into the latest cockpit procedures and the 3D models that go with them. Moreover, every year the aircraft manufacturer invites all airlines flying their aircraft to a conference. There, they recently introduced this VR tool, and now it is officially on sale, and we can say that there is worldwide interest in it. Cool, right?'

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