Aviation students at the University of South Australia will be training in cockpits of the two most popular jetliners in the world going forward. UniSA is due to take delivery of its second simulator this year – the Airbus A320 – allowing budding pilots to learn their way around a new cockpit, alongside the existing 737 flight simulator which is used for training undergraduate aviation students.
Bachelor of Aviation Program Director stated that the state-of-the-art Airbus A320 simulator, manufactured by a New Zealand firm, should be in place by mid-2022. He noted that for students to be able to train on both the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 simulators is a very rare opportunity. To his knowledge, UniSA will be the only university in Australia offering both Boeing and Airbus based flight simulators as part of its undergraduate aviation experience.
The exposure to two very different simulators will give UniSA’s aviation graduates a competitive edge by aligning their competencies with the industry requirements. While flying these planes may only happen later in their career, the fact they have been trained in two different cockpit environments will give them a definite advantage.
Apart from training students to fly, the new simulator will also be used for research purposes, investigating how fatigue, lack of movement, and other aspects of human factors affect pilot performance.
UniSA also hopes to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into the simulator training. The software components of the new simulator are similar to the Boeing 737, but the hardware is a fully enclosed shell structure with a 180-degree visual range.
Approximately 100 Bachelor of Aviation (Pilot) students use the simulator in their third year, putting into practice the theory they have learned up to that point in aircraft systems, flight plans, aerodynamics and navigation. The simulators allow students to work as a crew, giving them exposure to abnormal procedures, including engine failures, tricky weather conditions, and other scenarios that might not be suited for actual flight.
Simulators save lives and training costs, and with the addition of a second simulator, they will also give the university’s students a broader range of aviation experience that will serve them well in the real world. The idea that 100 pilots a year could walk out of university at a much higher bar, is great for the Australian flying community, the Program Director said. While COVID-19 has grounded many pilots temporarily and forced some into early retirement, the airline crisis has a silver lining for new students, he added. Most pilots who stood down or were made redundant during the height of the pandemic will not return, he predicts, providing plenty of job opportunities for newly trained pilots in the next few years.
According to a recent paper released by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, aviation is central to Australia’s economy and quality of life. Aviation underpins Australian business: transporting workers, tourists and high-value freight. The sector directly employed over 90,000 people and contributed $20 billion to the economy before COVID-19. Furthermore, the sector indirectly enables the tourism, mining, manufacturing and higher education sectors.
Aviation plays an important role in servicing the needs of regional and remote communities across Australia by providing and maintaining access to air services that include transport and freight, medical, search and rescue, social and law enforcement, and business/tourism travel.
Aviation is key to the tourism sector which accounts for around six per cent of GDP and is Australia’s fourth-largest export industry. Total international passenger traffic increased by around 75 per cent over the past 10 years to 2019.
The aviation sector acts as a crucial enabler across mining, construction, manufacturing and higher education. More than 60,000 people work more than 350 kilometres from their usual place of residence, the vast majority are likely to travel by air. Thousands of fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers serve the mining, construction, and oil and gas industry. A large majority (about 86%) of FIFO workers work in remote or very remote areas. Thus, training the pilots of Australia’s future is a necessary and important task.