International civil helicopter pilots have been zeroed in here 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 by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and CAE (Canada).
Set to celebrate its fourth anniversary coming June, the HATSOFF now caters to 100 per cent domestic market in India with Bell 412 EP, HAL’s civil Dhruv and the Eurocopter’s Dauphin 365 N3 simulators operating in tandem 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 line up of international customers have been steadily on the rise with pilots from Australia (Bell), Canada (CHC Helicopter), Ecuador (FAE) and Japan being among the regulars.
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 the HATSOFF is the feedback we have been receiving from the customers, which has been encouraging. Domestic and international enrolments will further increase, making it one of the best in the world,” says Tyagi.
The HATSOFF currently provides training to 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, the Coast Guard and the Border Security Force have been sending their pilots to the HATSOFF.
Captain N S Krishna, CEO and Chief of Training at HATSOFF says that new market potential is currently being explored in South-East Asian region.
“Bangalore has the advantage of good connectivity and the travel and living cost is low compared to other major cities abroad.
“We have kept a very competitive cost and is ready to offer prime slots during core hours of the day,” says Captain Krishna, a veteran pilot, who won laurels in 2005 when he had safely force-landed the Dhruv helicopter after a tail rotor blade failure, with all onboard escaping unhurt.
Captain Ajay Ramakrishnan, a Dhruv helicopter pilot with Pawan Hans says that the training at the 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 the HATSOFF,” says the Captain.
Since the Dhruv Mk-3 and Mk-4 variants are very highly complex machines,the HATSOFF permits 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. The HATSOFF has so far logged in close to 4,000 hours of training sessions with 120 Bell, 100 Dauphin and 30 Dhruv pilots getting exposure to simulation flying. It offers pilots all kinds of terrains such as hills, desert, oil rigs, jungles, extreme high altitude and rooftop helipads. These enable them to train in terrains they actually fly.