International civil helicopter pilots have zeroed in on Bangalore to fine-tune their skills on flight simulators. Living up to their expectations with cost-effective training is the Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF), a joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the CAE (of Canada).
HATSOFF, which will complete four years in June, now caters to a 100 per cent domestic market in India. Bell 412 EP, HAL’s civil Dhruv and the Eurocopter’s Dauphin 365 N3 simulators operate at its facility in Vimanapura. All the units are certified as Level D, FFS/FFMS (Full Motion/Full Mission Simulators) — the highest qualification for flight simulators. The flow of international customers has been steadily increasing with pilots from Australia (Bell), Canada (CHC Helicopter), Ecuador (FAE) and Japan being among the regulars.
Charter to Growth
HAL chairman R K Tygai told Express on Friday that HATSOFF has emerged as one of the fast-growing simulator training facilities in the world.
“The scale for us to measure the success of HATSOFF is the feedback we have been receiving from customers, which has been encouraging. Domestic and international enrolments will further increase, making it one of the best in the world,” Tyagi said.
HATSOFF currently provides training in the civil sector in India with all major operators including Pawan Hans, Global Vectra, Heligo, UHPC, GMR and a few state governments enrolling their pilots for training. In the military segment, in addition to the three Services, Coast Guard and the Border Security Force have been sending their pilots to HATSOFF.
Spreading its Wings
Capt N S Krishna, CEO and Chief of Training at HATSOFF, said they are currently exploring market potential in South-East Asia. “Bangalore has the advantage of good connectivity and the travel and living cost is low compared to other major cities abroad. We have a very competitive cost and are ready to offer prime slots during core hours of the day,” Capt Krishna said.
A veteran pilot, he won laurels for safely force-landing a Dhruv helicopter in 2005. The chopper had developed a tail rotor blade failure but all on board escaped unhurt, proving its crash-worthiness.
Capt Ajay Ramakrishnan, a Dhruv helicopter pilot with Pawan Hans, said the training at HATSOFF proved handy to overcome a crisis.
“We had an emergency due to bad weather in Raipur with the visibility suddenly becoming zero. We were able to recover the chopper only because of the training we received at HATSOFF,” he recollected.
Since the Dhruv Mk-3 and Mk-4 variants are highly complex machines, HATSOFF allows the pilots to train to proficiency in operating advance systems before they actually fly the machine. The military variant of Dhruv is expected to be added to the facility by 2015.
HATSOFF has so far logged close to 4,000 hours of training sessions with 120 Bell, 100 Dauphin and 30 Dhruv pilots getting exposure to simulation flying.