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VRM Switzerland has announced certification of its Robinson R22 Virtual Reality Training Device by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) — the first such approval by an aviation authority for a VR flight simulation training device (FSTD).
The device is certified to the level of Flight Navigation Procedures Trainer (FNPT) II, allowing users to credit up to five hours of training toward an EASA private pilot license, and up to 10 or 20 hours for a commercial pilot license, depending on the training concept. Up to five hours can be credited for night flight training.
The certification is a major milestone for VRM Switzerland, whose launch customer Mountainflyers has already been using the R22 simulator to improve training outcomes for its students in a cost-effective way.
“Pilots should receive realistic training on simulators. This allows helicopter operators and flight schools to fly more efficiently and safely,” stated Fabi Riesen, VRM Switzerland’s CEO.
“Thanks to the qualification from EASA, we can offer training with the possibility of crediting flight hours,” he continued. “To make this possible, a lot of preparatory work was necessary. The suitability of the VR concept was verified through a training evaluation program together with EASA involving pilots of various nationalities from industry and aviation authorities, including helicopter flight instructors and test pilots.”
VRM Switzerland’s training device incorporates the high-resolution Varjo VR-3 head mounted display and pose tracking with a VR haptic cockpit on a six-degrees-of-freedom motion platform. Riesen said the combination provides “the highest possible visual fidelity, allowing pilots to be fully immersed,” while also enabling the training of maneuvers such as autorotations, hovering, and slope landings, where exact height perception and a wide field of view are required.
Varjo chief commercial officer Seppo Aaltonen said the company was “honored” to be part of the first EASA-qualified, VR-based FSTD.
“This is a truly pivotal moment for the entire VR industry, proving that immersive simulations can bring very tangible benefits to pilot training,” Aaltonen stated in a press release. “Together with VRM Switzerland, we look forward to providing and scaling cost-effective, photorealistic virtual simulation training to pilots worldwide.”
David Solar, head of General Aviation and VTOL at EASA, pointed out that VR simulation is one of the pillars of the agency’s Rotorcraft Safety Roadmap, launched in late 2018 to improve small helicopter safety.
“This technology was identified as a real enabler and potential game changer for helicopter training,” Solar stated. “The VRM Switzerland R22 virtual reality simulator qualification is a further step towards EASA and industry objectives to improve overall rotorcraft safety by 50 percent by 2028. It shows that when we are all working together, we can overcome all challenges towards a common objective. I’d like to congratulate VRM Switzerland team for the outstanding work, as well as EASA teams for their commitment to support this qualification, which so far as I’m aware is a first in the world.”