Coulson Aviation enhances aerial firefighting training with unique simulators

October 25, 2023

Coulson Aviation, renowned in aerial firefighting, has recently bolstered its training capabilities.

The company procured two Level D full flight simulators from CAE, located in Arlington, Texas.

These simulators are unique, comprising the only CH-47D simulator in the world and one of just two UH-60A and L simulators in existence.

Furthermore, they are night vision goggle (NVG) compatible and are set to undergo notable upgrades.

All these advancements will soon find their home at a new simulator facility at Coulson’s base in Thermal, California.

Raising the bar in aerial firefighting training

Mel Ceccanti, Director of Flight Operations-Rotorcraft at Coulson Aviation, noted: “As the only company conducting NVG firefighting operations with large aircraft, training and currency is paramount to Coulson.”

He went on to highlight their exhaustive training program for new pilots, which he claimed is “twice as intensive as anyone else in the industry.”

These new NVG-compliant simulators enhance the program, augmenting rotorcraft training to ensure the flight crews’ proficiency.

“The simulators are undergoing upgrades that feature a cutting-edge image generator, an advanced projection system, improved avionics, fresh operating systems, and updated databases,” the company revealed.

Simulators mimicking real-world challenges

Ceccanti emphasized the realism and comprehensive training these simulators provide: “The CH-47 sim allows us to simulate 490 aircraft system failures while the Black Hawk simulator can replicate over 561 failures.

“We can run our pilots through the gauntlet without the expense, wear, and risk of training in the helicopter.”

He added that the simulators’ interiors, including the cockpit, seats, and controls, perfectly match their real aircraft counterparts.

They even vibrate during operations, simulating a genuine helicopter flight.

Looking ahead in aerial firefighting

Every pilot at Coulson undergoes rigorous initial training, spending up to five days in the simulator.

They also participate in intense annual refresher training using the simulators.

This emphasis on simulator-based training not only customizes instruction for wildfire fighting scenarios but also presents a cost-effective solution in the long run.

An expert technician from CAE has been recruited by Coulson to manage the simulators: from disassembly and transportation to Thermal, to ensuring updates, obtaining FAA certification, and ensuring their full operational status.

With the latest upgrades, these simulators are expected to be operational in 2024. Additionally, they’ll be available for lease to other firms looking to offer valuable Level D simulator training for the two helicopter models.

FSJA Comment

This development underscores a progressive step in aerial firefighting training.

With the introduction of these unique simulators, we see a blend of innovation and safety.

Coulson Aviation’s commitment to enhancing its training regimen means pilots are better equipped, leading to potentially more effective firefighting operations.

It also heralds a potential shift in training practices across the industry, emphasizing the value of realistic simulation.

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