Virtual reality in-flight training
While simulators have been used in pilot training for some time, the same is not true for other crew members, who traditionally undergo a combination of classroom instruction, visits to real aircraft, and the use of physical cabin mock-ups.
The Centre for Intermedia and Creative Technology‘s Professor Gabriella Giannachi collaborated with VR experts Invirt Reality to explore whether new technologies, including head mounted displays, software development platforms and input devices, would make VR a viable training option through a series of trials involving real cabin crew trainees from Flybe.
If deemed suitable, VR training would bring both cost reductions and improvements in the way training can be delivered, including allowing different features within the training that are not possible in real aircraft, such as emergency situations and different cabin layouts; the ability to record and repeat training outcomes, and integrate with computer-based training records and Learning Management Systems.
Gabriella advised on the design of the trials, specifically about the ways in which subjects learn, and conducted in-trial measurements. This involved using questionnaires to probe the trainees’ feelings towards the environment, and noted their behaviour, progress and timings. All the source information was collated and analysed to determine the performance of the system, and to rectify issues and implement improvements.
Gabriella’s final report determined that the VR educational experience has the potential to augment the existing training, speed it up and, in some respects, improve it. The exercise has demonstrated that the prospects for learning in a VR environment for cabin crew training are positive, and can be delivered in a practical training environment.