KLM Cityhopper Uses Virtual Flight Deck for Pilot Training

The new technology offers flexibility in meeting pilot training needs.

Pilots don’t need to be in the classroom or simulator to use VR training.KLM Cityhopper

European regional airline KLM Cityhopper, a division of KLM, announced last week that it is now employing an in-house developed virtual reality system to train pilots on the Embraer 175 and 190 aircraft. KLM said in a news release that Cityhopper “is the first airline to integrate VR into its pilot training for Embraer aircraft.” The company wants “to investigate the capabilities of VR in an effort to respond more flexibly to pilots' differing training needs.”

KLM said, “Virtual reality 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 familiarize themselves with the cockpit in advance, so that they make more effective use of their simulator time.” The company believes the use of VR will also generate cost savings because it makes pilot scheduling more flexible and reduces the number of external suppliers.

“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. The virtual cockpit module puts the pilot into the cockpit through an interactive, computer-generated image of the control panels. The pilot also watches a 360-degree POV video of a flight as if they were sitting on the cockpit jump seat. Finally there’s the virtual walkaround both through and around the aircraft, composed of 360-degree static photographs.

Werner Soeteman, manager of the VR Centre Of Excellence at KLM IT said, “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.”