Before they ever take to the sky at the helm of a jumbo jet carrying hundreds of passengers, pilots spend hours inside sophisticated flight simulators, testing their adherence to protocol, in-flight problem solving and composure under stress.
More often than not, these simulators are built by Montreal’s CAE. Designing a major piece of industrial machinery like the CAE 7000, pictured here, presents enough challenges on its own; it’s made more difficult by the fact that the company must perfectly replicate real airplane cockpits—every dial and knob, every screen and readout.
“Aircraft cockpits are extremely complicated,” says Marc St-Hilaire, CAE’s vice president, technology and innovation. “They’re always on the edge of overloading the humans inside them.” So manufacturers and regulators also use the simulators to test those limits, which often leads to modifications in cockpit design.
Creating a high degree of realism—including the ambient noise each aircraft produces—is key to better safety training, says St-Hilaire: “The more you make the pilot believe, the more immersive the experience is.”