Flight Simulators Save Lives

SAS ConvairBefore the airlines had fully embraced flight simulation about 1975, many aircraft were lost unnecessarily in training accidents. In Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story, such dreadful cases as the Air Canada and Air New Zealand DC-8 training flight crashes are cited. Someone could write a lurid book about all those avoidable accidents.

From the 1950s the airlines took a good 25 years before concluding that such advanced pilot training must be done only in a modern flight simulator equipped with motion and visual systems. Some airlines came kicking and screaming to the flight simulation table, but that era finally had become ancient history by 2015.

In doing some misc. research lately, I came across yet another crazy mishap caused by taking up a crew-in-training in an expensive airliner, then introducing them to a dangerous scenario. This involved an SAS Convair 440 training instructor at Stockholm retarding the power on one engine as the Convair lifted off. Usually, such challenges to the pilot-in-command were not announced in advance.

This incident involved Convair 440 SE-BSU on November 1, 1969 (shown above is a fine period view of “BSU” taken by my old photography pal, the late, great Wilf White of Glasgow). The accident report (available at the Aviation Safety Network) concludes: “An engine failure was simulated during the takeoff (at V1). The yaw was corrected and the Convair lifted off the runway. When airborne, the left wing dropped slowly, causing the aircraft to drift to the left. Power was restored to the No.1 engine, but the left wing hit the ground and the aircraft crash-landed. The nose and right main gear collapsed.”

End result? One lovely Convair 440 unnecessarily wrecked. Happily, the four pilots aboard survived, but with many similar training flights since 1960, there were tragic outcomes. In another of the hundreds of such crashes over the decades, on February 6, 1992, USAF C-130B Hercules 58-0732 crashed near Evansville, Indiana, while simulating engine failure during an in-flight training session. This “real life” exercise cost 16 lives. Although they have clearly been slow learners, today’s airline and military operators finally are with the program, almost all such training now being done “in the sim”

You can get the big picture about how the airlines gradually adopted flight simulation, by ordering yourself a copy of Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story, 2015’s blockbuster aviation book of the year.


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