Sophisticated Aircraft Simulator at Massey University, Only One of Two in New Zealand

Massey University's new simulator may never leave the ground, but from the cockpit, it feels just like a Diamond in the sky.

The Massey School of Aviation's $700,000 Diamond DA-42 aircraft simulator is one of the most realistic simulator available, with only one other training institute in New Zealand having one like it.

School of Aviation Chief Executive, Ashok Poduval, said the simulator will bring new opportunities for jobs and training for Kiwi pilots. He mentioned that it has already been the promise that lured Qantas' Future Pilots Programme to Manawatū.

The school's Chief of Standards, Paul Kearney, said that the simulator's cockpit is identical to the Diamond aircraft, being made from the same moulds, in the same factories, and look out on a 220 degree wrap-around screen.

"It's incredible, at times it's hard to believe you are in a simulator, it's so realistic in the way it flies."

Kearney mentioned that this allowed the simulator to get the Civil Aviation Authority's approval on certifying pilots on maneuvres that would normally require real flight time. 

"For example, I can examine pilots in this simulator for a circling approach when landing. That's because the visuals come right round to behind the wing, which is pretty unique for a simulator."

Kearney emphasised that simulators were increasingly important in pilot training, as aircrafts become more sophisticated. He said that in older planes, the control panels were all physical dials, with a few control knobs and switches.

A trainee pilot could fairly quickly memorise the layout, but in modern aircrafts, such as the Diamond, there were a lot more electronics, screens and dozens of nearly identical, closely-placed switches and buttons. Because of this, it took longer for pilots to familiarise themselves with these, and it was better in training the students to not hit the wrong switch in a simulator, than in the air.

"There are pages and pages of things I can use to ruin a student's day in the new simulator." Kearney added.