Airbus opens new H145 full-motion simulator in Texas

Avatar for Dan ParsonsBy Dan Parsons | May 10, 2021

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 54 seconds.

Airbus Helicopters has cut the ribbon on a new full-motion H145 simulator at its Grand Prairie, Texas, facility so that operators of the popular twin-engine aircraft from North and South America can train without having to travel to Europe. 

Developed by Thales, the Level D H145 full-flight simulator opened May 10 in Grand Prairie, Texas, is the first outside Europe. Airbus Photo

The brand-new Thales Reality H full-motion flight simulator was inaugurated Monday at the Helisim Simulation Center, a $22 million facility offering pilots initial and recurrent training on the H145.

“With this brand-new, state-of-the-art H145 Level-D full flight simulator, our North American customers can experience the highest levels of H145 training in their own backyard,” said Romain Trapp, president of Airbus Helicopters and head of the North America region. 

Developed by Thales, the Level D H145 full-flight simulator is one of the most advanced simulators available, thanks to the integration of Airbus Helicopters’ avionics and software suite, a larger field of view, 4K projection technology, Thales’ electric Hexaline motion, and a new intuitive touchscreen instructor station. Considered a “zero-time” simulator, the experience replicates exactly the experience of flying the H145, allowing pilots to train right up to their initial check-out flight, Trapp said. 

Airbus has sold 40 H145s and plans to sell up to 50 of the twin-engine helicopters a year for the foreseeable future. Because of the popularity of the aircraft, Airbus has “seen a significant increase in demand for simulation,” Trapp said. 

The 18,500-square-foot Helisim Simulation Center was designed to house two simulator bays, with the possibility to expand to three simulators in the future as needed. Airbus Photo

More than 1,200 hours already are booked on the simulator by various operators in the helicopter EMS, oil-and-gas and law enforcement sectors, according to Trapp. Most of those customers are based in the U.S. and Canada. Others are from Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brazil, Jean-Charles de Troy, managing director of Helisim, told Vertical. The first trainee is scheduled to being in June.

“With this new training center, Helisim is able to offer the best simulator-based training to H145 operators,” de Troy said. “With outstanding equipment and software implemented, including an OEM simulator data package, along with integrating Airbus helicopter flight instructors, our goal is to offer a reliable and true-to-mission training experience to H145 pilots.”

Equipped with the OEM data package, the simulator provides the most true-to-life experience with the safety benefits of simulation, allowing instructors to train operators to react safely and efficiently to a wide variety of real-world situations. 

“I was really, really impressed with how real the simulator is,” Trapp said of his experience flying it. “Usually when you go in a simulator, you know you are not in a real environment. The technology of this simulator makes you really feel you are in a helicopter and flying.” 

The 18,500-square-foot Helisim Simulation Center was designed to house two simulator bays, with the room for expansion to three simulators in the future, as needed. The training center also operates an H125/AS350 full-flight simulator and an EC135/EC145 flight training device.

The simulator is set up to train pilots on the four-blade version of the H145 because that configuration is what the majority of operators fly. When the five-blade version of the aircraft overtakes the four-blade variant on the market, the simulator will be upgraded to train pilots on the five-blade version, de Troy said. 

The new simulator represents a major international expansion of France-based Helisim, a joint venture of Airbus Helicopters, Thales, and DCI. Airbus trains about 1,500 pilots and technicians at its Grand Prairie facility each year, Trapp said. The simulator is Airbus Helicopters’ second H145 full flight simulator. The other is at Airbus headquarters in Germany. 

The U.S. Army has purchased 18 H145s and will send some of its pilots to Grand Prairie for simulator training.

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