Is VR Simulations a Viable Form of Pilot Training?

VR technology has undoubtedly made some significant leaps over the past decade and it has proven as a useful tool in different situations. However is it a reliable tool for training future pilots? Although nobody questions its utility in general, piloting an aircraft has so many aspects to it that VR cannot simulate. For starters, there is no restart button, so the mental pressure alone makes the experience incomparable. That being said, it is certainly not something that we should outright dismiss. So, the best thing to do is compare the pros and cons.   

Reasons to rely on VR

First of all, compared to a traditional simulator VR is way more effective and the implementation costs are lower. Even though, the old tech is still present the results do indicate that it will be gradually replaced with VR. Thanks to VR dozen of students managed to finish their training within a few months whereas the traditional method took years to achieve the same results. 

In terms of costs, the VR unit costs around $1,000 whereas the old cockpit simulator was leaps and bounds beyond, going up to $4,5 million per unit. Furthermore, VR tech can track the progress of the students using biometric and AI features, and it’s way easier to adjust and accommodate different aircraft training. 

Inability to mirror a real-life situation

As mentioned there is no reset-button during a real flight making the stakes much higher, but there are other possible scenarios that VR also does not cover. You don’t get to experience what it is like to encounter and hit a flock of wild birds while taking off, or when you need to make split decisions in case of emergency landings. And even though all of these things can be a part of the simulation the gravity of the situation and how it reflects on the pilot’s psyche is vastly different. So, it would be wise to find a solution that can incorporate these real-life circumstances into a training program.   

Fused Reality

U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Since we can agree that VR is a valuable tool for learning the only question is how to we make it more viable for preparing the pilots for real-life experience. NASA might be the organization that holds a key to bridging this gap, as they went a step further and took flight simulation while in air. This is called Fused Reality that helps pilots experience different scenarios while flying. In other words, it is able to simulate the conditions of real flight, while maintaining the altitude that allows pilots to recover from errors and avoid catastrophic outcomes.   

Even though the training program is more dangerous it is a far better tool for pilots to prepare than a grounded cockpit. It also fully utilizes the benefits of the VR system, which means that important learning tools are not overlooked. The aim is to ensure every plan has this simulation system in the future, and build better confidence and competence of the pilots who undergo a training program.

This will undoubtedly have a better impact on airline companies and passengers. Because knowing how training programs have improved they can be more confident they are incapable hands while traveling.