Simulator takes off at Southport

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

Peter Fedak flys the simulator over Portage la Prairie from the comfy confines of Hangar 1 at Southport. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

Peter Fedak flys the simulator over Portage la Prairie from the comfy confines of Hangar 1 at Southport. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

Southport is now home to the most advanced helicopter flight simulator in North America.

The Bell-206 Level-7 flight training device is up and running ahead of schedule inside Southport's Hangar 1 and it’s got folks with KF Aerospace excited about the future of flight training.

“I keep coming in and looking at and it’s been like Christmas for me here since the arrival of the simulator,” says Peter Fedak, KF Aerospace site manager. “We had all of the simulation tools for every aircraft on site except for the Bell 206 JetRanger we operate here. So we wanted to take a look what technologies were out there for it back in 2013 and here we are with an amazing simulator today.”

The simulator will be the fifth simulator on the Southport grounds, but it will easily be the most state of the art and technologically advanced simulators in North America thanks to the full motion system on it. It cost roughly $5 million for equipment and installation costs, and  another million in operating costs for the next 10 years which covers maintenance, operating expenses, and electricity – which the simulator uses an abundance of.  It comes in at about one-third to a quarter of the cost of the devices already used at Southport, making it a much more economical way of training.

“We’ve really tuned the device to fly as close as possible to the real helicopter,”says Fedak. “Most other simulator training is advanced training for qualified pilots going through crew training or emergency training. This is going to be a new ground where it’s pilots that have never flown before using the simulator for some basic training prior to getting inside a real helicopter.”

The search for a simulator ended at Frasca International, Inc., a manufacturer of high-fidelity flight simulators for fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft based out of Illinois. An experiment was then launched in 2014 when a couple of students were sent to Louisiana to learn more about the simulator. It ended up being a very successful endeavour and due to the time it would take for procurement through the Canadian government, Fedak got to work right away.

“In early 2015 a request was filed by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on how they could acquire one of the devices for use in flight training," Fedak says. "After a series of negotiations on a number of different things, in 2017 the purchase agreement was signed with the government of Canada. We’re now ahead of schedule on that as the device is here operating and ready for training.”

Transport Canada will be coming out to give KF Aerospace their certification, which in itself is groundbreaking.

“Transport Canada is actually excited to see what they can actually certify this simulator to do,” adds Fedak. “Once that is done it’ll be fully ready for the air force to conduct the flight training they desire or private companies we can market this to for any training they need. Again, it’s a very exciting project and the culmination of a lot of work and time.”

The simulator was completely purchased and paid for by the Government of Canada as part of the CFTS project (Contacted Flying and Training Support) for the RCAF to use.

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