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Loft Dynamics: Changing the landscape of pilot training

Christine Heerwagen | May 6, 2024

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 46 seconds.

This sponsored article was created by Insight magazine, the sponsored content division of MHM Publishing, on behalf of Loft Dynamics.

It is estimated that the global shortage of helicopter pilots will exceed 61,000 by 2038. Mass retirements, an aging pilot population, and the expansion of helicopter applications create a significant gap in the rotorcraft pilot supply. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to these challenges, but cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) flight training simulators, like Loft Dynamics’, are proving to be a powerful asset — and the global aviation industry is increasingly taking notice.

In May 2022, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved Loft Dynamics’ simulators as the only EASA FTD Level 3 flight simulation training devices (FSTD), allowing Airbus H125 (AS350 B3e) pilots to complete annual license proficiency checks for AS350/EC130 type rating revalidation and biannual operator proficiency checks in Loft Dynamics’ simulators. In 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) added two Loft Dynamics VR helicopter flight simulators at its William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to provide realistic flight scenarios for pilots and safety researchers.

Loft Dynamics is leading a global paradigm shift in how the next generation of pilots are trained. The company’s expansion into more markets, including its most recent entry in North America, has served as a catalyst for this shift. Naturally, it has also spiked demand, particularly in the U.S. Customers, ranging from flight schools and helicopter operators to manufacturers such as Airbus Helicopters, have acquired the simulators. Even airborne law enforcement organizations like the Los Angeles Police Department Air Support Division have already initiated the purchase process of installing an onsite Loft Dynamics H125 VR FSTD.

“While demand for our simulators continues to rise, we’re also recognizing a largely unmet demand from pilots and aviation leaders in the U.S. — they want to test our technology in person. To make it easier for them to touch, feel, and experience firsthand the power of our simulators, we knew a physical space was the answer,” explained Fabi Riesen, founder and CEO of Loft Dynamics.

On Feb. 1, 2024, Loft Dynamics unveiled its first-ever Virtual Reality Flight Simulation Hub in Santa Monica, California. This hands-on, dynamic demonstration center and operations base serves the North American market where the largest population of helicopter
pilots reside.

“A strategically-located physical demo center allows our growing customer base the chance to fly our sims, practice a range of maneuvers, and truly comprehend the power of VR technology in this capacity. Additionally, with a simulation hub in the right location, existing North American customers will get faster and more convenient onsite and remote support,” Riesen elaborated.

Conveniently located at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), Loft Dynamics’ hub will house its H125 VR FSTD and a compact technical operations station, situated just off the airport’s storied and picturesque observation deck. There, visitors will get to fly the simulator, experiencing its immersive realism through a full-scale replica cockpit

with a 360-degree view and precise visual cues — both inside and outside the aircraft. The six degrees of freedom highly dynamic motion platform accurately replicates all haptic sensations experienced while flying an aircraft — from sling load movements and uneven surfaces to flight control force feedback — allowing pilots to sharpen their muscle memory.

Pilots can even customize their training scenarios to replicate real-life emergency situations in a safe, controlled environment. For example, pilots can simulate flying in the mountains with the challenges of rough terrain, winds, and high altitude, while public safety pilots can practice landing on every building in their city.

Riesen shared that the company has seen an uptick in interest from U.S.-based air medical companies, many of which operate Airbus H125s. He said the initial draw lies in their ability to deliver highly effective training at a fraction of the cost and size compared to traditional full-flight simulators — roughly 20 times less expensive and 10 times smaller. Once they get into the company’s simulator, navigating scenarios such as flying through sudden clouds and fog, everything clicks. He said it becomes evident just how unparalleled the level of realism truly is.

“The application of VR technology in aviation isn’t just a concept anymore,” Riesen said. “It’s changing the landscape of pilot training, empowering helicopter pilots to succeed in any situation, and more broadly, making it more accessible to break into the field. Our hub in Santa Monica brings the flight experience to life in a convenient, tangible, and engaging way. As we’ve seen time and again, when people get the chance to fly our simulator, they see that VR technology is the future of higher quality, accessible, affordable, and safer helicopter training.”

The upward trend in helicopter pilot employment isn’t slowing anytime soon. The stark reality is that half of today’s pilots will retire within the next 15 years. As the global pilot shortage transitions from a cautionary future concern to a very real issue, the need for innovation is more important than ever.

Loft Dynamics’ innovative technology is undoubtedly building the foundation for the next generation of pilot training standards, not only in helicopters but also for eVTOLs and fixed-wing aircraft as the company expands its scope as early as this year. The opening of its California flight simulation hub brings that technology directly to the pilots and aviation leaders of today. 

Visit Loft Dynamics’ Virtual Reality Flight Simulation Hub at 3221 Donald Douglas Loop S., 3rd Floor, Santa Monica, CA, 90405, from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

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