How Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Used in Aviation Training and Other Use Cases

Michael Velichko
Michael Velichko

Proper employee training plays a significant role in the aviation industry.

Since both flight deck and cabin crews are responsible for passenger lives, they have to be properly prepared for nearly any situation that can occur during a flight.

For training cabin and flight deck crews, airlines often use so-called hard simulators – full-size cockpits that accurately replicate real aircraft or their particular parts.

Not only do trainees go through flight simulations. Even licensed pilots have to regularly perform a flight in a simulator to renew their rating.

Furthermore, when changing to another type of aircraft, pilots and flight deck have to complete a specific training program. They first learn technical aspects of the aircraft they will pilot. Then they go through a simulator practice to prepare for a real flight in a given airplane.

virtual reality in aviation training

There are many different types of simulators based on cockpits. Their primary job is to prepare cabin crew, flight deck, and pilots to be prepared for all kinds of emergent situations, and to learn every aspect of the aircraft. These cockpits include:

  • door trainers with an exact copy of interior of specific aircraft;
  • cabin emergency evacuation trainer;
  • overwing exit trainers;
  • cabin service trainers;
  • real-fire fighting trainers;
  • water emergency practice basins;
  • evacuation slide towers.
virtual reality app development for aviation

Pilot training requires tactile interaction with aircraft equipment so pilots could get used to it. They also need to experience real flight emotions to learn fighting stress.

But there’s a wide number of use cases where virtual and augmented reality can bring significant benefits to airlines as well as the whole aviation industry.

augmented reality app development for aviation

VR in aviation: main use cases

Virtual reality finds its usage mostly in crew training within the aviation industry. However, a number of use cases is quite high. Let’s clarify how immersive technology as virtual reality can be helpful for airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

Pre-flight inspection

Passengers typically contact only flight attendants and sometimes hear the voice of the first pilot during their air trip.

In fact, many different specialists are involved in transporting people from one city to another by air.

The thing is that most of these experts service the flight remaining on the ground. They are the ground crew. Ground crew includes technicians, customer service representatives, and flight dispatchers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) uses VR to train ground crew and flight attendants.

Virtual reality can greatly simplify and speed up the airline staff training in conducting an external aircraft inspection.

Wearing an HMD, employees can virtually walk around an aircraft, detect existing issues, and check whether all necessary safety equipment is correctly placed.

The ground crew VR training plays a significant role in ensuring passenger safety.

Without necessary skills and knowledge, the ground crew put both pilots and passengers into danger since this is the crew that makes sure that everything’s alright with an airplane and it’s ready to take off.

Real inspections can’t properly prepare the ground crew for detecting common aircraft issues since a set of potential situations is highly limited in this case. You wouldn’t damage your airplane on purpose to teach your crew how to detect certain issues.

Virtual reality enables you to design any fuselage or wing problem as well as any other aircraft issue thus training the ground crew to detect and eliminate them accurately.

Using the immersive VR technology, you will be able to properly train your ground crew and make sure they’re ready for any unexpected situations.

Aircraft maintenance

Virtual reality is an effective tool for employee training within a safe environment.

Future aviation engineers often experience a lack of practical knowledge since they have to wait until certain complex equipment becomes available for them to practice on. Until a certain airplane needs repairing, engineers may not have a possibility to practice their skills in real situations.

Expensive and complex aircraft parts like engines require a lot of study time to learn properly how to repair them.

Virtual reality provides wide opportunities to learn at any time independently from the availability of any equipment.

With the immersive VR technology, engineers can practice on any aircraft model and study any detail while improving their skills as long as needed.

Pratt & Whitney, an American manufacturer of jet engines, uses VR to train its mechanics to repair aircraft engines.

With their virtual reality experience, engineers can look inside an engine or observe it around. In addition, they can study nearly any particular detail individually using virtual reality.

The immersive technology can significantly save the cost and time for training engineers to work with specific engine types and models. With virtual reality, the entire training process becomes faster and more cost-effective.

Virtual reality makes training available at any place and any time once a user takes a head-mounted display on.

VR cabin crew training

Besides pilots and engineers, there are other specialists responsible for passengers. The cabin crew is who have to ensure passenger safety and comfort.

Before taking off, flight attendants conduct a safety check that includes ensuring that all equipment like life-vests, flashlights, and extinguishers are in the proper condition. The cabin crew has to monitor the cabin for smoke smells and passenger behavior.

They ensure that there are no dangerous packages in the cabin. Flight attendants also make sure that nothing or nobody can block the emergency exit. They also do a safety demonstration to teach passenger basic safety rules during a flight.

Before serving flights, flight attendants go through special training to learn how to act in certain situations like a threatened crash, hijacking, or when some passenger falls ill.

Instead of learning tutorials, tips, and explanations in a form of the text, a cabin crew can experience real-life situations in virtual environments.

A VR mobile app called aViatoR enables airlines to create their own cabin crew training programs to ensure their staff is well-prepared for high-risk situations or just stressed, threatened or disappointed passengers.

The VR app replicates cabin interior with virtual passengers in a detailed manner. Trainees can interact with different cabin elements like doors and seats as well as with passengers in particular training scenarios.

With virtual reality solutions, a cabin crew can efficiently learn the basic structure of an airplane and its appliances.

The immersive virtual reality technology provides a wide set of scenarios in which flight attendants can find themselves during real flights. This makes it possible for a cabin crew to learn the necessary skills for proper behavior in dangerous or unexpected situations.

The benefits of virtual reality allow airlines to spend less on training and make sure their reputation is safe because flight attendants first practice in virtual cabins and with virtual passengers.

With virtual reality, trainees can experience nearly the same emotional condition they will face in real emergency situations in the air as when a passenger feels sick or when there is fire on board.

Thus, they will be able to learn how to fight stress and help passengers keep calm when they’re in danger.

training in aviation

VR flight deck training

The flight deck crew are those who work in the aircraft cockpit and pilot an airplane. They include at least two pilots and a flight engineer.

Flight deck and cabin crew need to establish proper communication to be able to control in full the situation in the crew.

In the case of the emergency like some passenger gets unconscious and there’s a threat of his or her life, or improper passenger behavior can affect other people’s safety, the personnel has to be able to quickly deal with such situations up to initiating an emergency landing.

This is possible through efficient communication between the flight deck and flight attendants.

By virtually putting the personnel in a dangerous situation, virtual reality can greatly help the flight deck learn necessary communication skills to react quickly to emergency together with the cabin crew while piloting an aircraft.

One of these emergency situations can be a fire in the cockpit. Flight deck teams currently use special electronic flight bags (EFBs) to efficiently perform flight management tasks instead of doing a lot of paperwork as it used to be.

However, these information management devices are a potential threat for a flight crew.

The thing is that a flight crew can’t use an extinguisher if an EFB catches fire since pilots still need full access to all aircraft equipment and displays after the fire gets extinguished. That’s why using a fire sock, in this case, is more suitable.

However, putting this EFB into a fire sock while flying an aircraft requires clear coordination and effective communication between flight and cabin crews.

With virtual reality solutions, a flight deck can safely experience this type of scenarios in a virtual environment.

With well-known cases of lithium-ion batteries catching fire in various mobile devices like Samsung Galaxy Note 7, there’s no guarantee that a particular EFB won’t have the same problem.

In-flight entertainment

With the continuous growth of the VR market, airlines like Lufthansa and Air France have already started adopting virtual reality for business purposes.

These companies widely use the main capability of the immersive technology to put users into virtual environments for entertaining passengers.

During a flight, passengers usually experience discomfort caused by a wide number of factors like aircraft’s engine noise, other people’s talking, crying babies, and tight environment.

While sound factors can be eliminated with headphones and preferred music, the only way passengers can ignore visuals is sleeping.

However, if you travel long distances, it is almost impossible to sleep the entire flight. A virtual reality head-mounted display offers an audiovisual escape by providing passengers with a capability to find themselves within other surroundings like a Mediterranean Sea beach or Mars surface.

Through a VR headset, Boeing allows passengers to watch a live 360-degree video from sports events. Along with a surrounding sound based on the Dolby Atmos technology, users can feel as if they’re seating in the first row in a stadium or above a racetrack during a flight.

How popular airlines use virtual and augmented reality

The immersive technologies as VR and AR are not only potentially useful tools for employee training and building marketing strategies. They have already become a proof of concept since various airlines have implemented either VR or AR in their businesses.

Lufthansa

Apart from entertaining purposes, Lufthansa also uses virtual reality to encourage passengers to purchase business class seats instead of economy class ones. Through 360-degree video, the German airline shows passengers the advantages of premium seats over standard.

Air France

Air France uses a so-called immersive entertainment system based on virtual reality to show passengers 3D films or TV series through head-mounted displays.

As part of the partnership with SkyLights, the French airline has created a special VR headset for use onboard its Airbus A340 for specific national destinations.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand uses Microsoft HoloLens for cabin crew training in augmented reality. This airline considers providing its flight attendants with a HoloLens headset. With this device, a cabin crew will always have access to real-time flight information.

Furthermore, through emotion tracking techniques, the headset will determine the passenger’s emotional state thus helping flight attendants better serve them.

How Jasoren can help you

We at Jasoren have deep expertise in building virtual reality simulators for employee training and equipment maintenance.

When it comes to emergencies in a virtual environment, our dedicated team can replicate any scenario to provide your staff with an effective training program.

One of our last projects is a VR simulator of the emergency situation on a subway.  Our solution helps train subway workers and drivers for a situation where the rolling stock on the subway platform catches fire.

For this virtual reality app, we developed a 3D environment that includes a subway platform and train. Within the virtual environment, our solution allows trainees to interact with a wide range of elements such as fire extinguishers and alarm buttons.

We implemented in virtual reality a realistic physical model of how fire grows and how smoke spreads out across the subway.

Our qualified developers also can help your engineers efficiently learn how to repair large complex mechanisms like engines or turbines.

With our virtual reality solutions, your mechanics can learn by doing and safely make mistakes while you can be sure your property is safe.

Another our project was a VR simulator of the wind turbine direct-drive generator maintenance.

The main purpose of this VR project is to train engineers to properly inspect and replace the nodes of the direct-drive wind turbine.

The virtual reality simulator has a highly detailed 3D graphics with an accurately replicated wind turbine and its key elements. In the virtual environment, users can interact with these three-dimensional elements as well as repair instruments.

The VR app also has a realistic animation of the user interaction with turbine nodes and various elements of the wind energy generator.

We can develop a unique scenario for your business case and replicate it in the virtual environment through a cost-effective simulator with realistic graphics.

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