Flight Simulators in Accident Investigation

However, full flight simulators also have some limitations, which make them poor tools for research and investigations depending on the specifics of the crash and the needs for the investigators reviewing the case.

Full flight simulators do not accurately simulate severe aircraft flight attitudes and conditions. They are also not perfect modelers of reality, as they cannot model the specific conditions that the aircraft itself as well as the flight crew were under. However, since there are rarely survivors of major plane crashes, it is difficult to interview witnesses or people who were on board the aircraft in order to obtain some sort of picture of the time leading up to the crash. Full flight simulators can be used to simulate conditions without risking people or machinery in the process. They are excellent tools for “best Guess” and probable cause findings, but they should be used in conjunction with more traditional investigational methods in order to come up with any concrete findings. Full flight simulators will likely be used in the future to help in accident investigations.

They are a key component in the investigators toolbox along with the actual records that are stored digitally on devices located inside the aircraft itself. The cockpit voice recorder as well as the flight data recorders can be analyzed to come up with a viable model for the crash, which can then be modeled and tested in a full flight simulator.


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National Transportation Safety Board. (2010). “Cockpit Voice Recorders and Flight Data

Recorders.” NTSB Website accessed 15 Oct. 2010 at: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviation/cvr_fdr.htm.

Schwarz, Carsten Walter and Hahn, Klaus-Uwe. “Full-flight simulator study for wake vortex hazard area investigation.” Aerospace Science and Technology. Vol. 10, No. 2. Pp. 136-143.

Tydeman, Robin. (2004). The Use of Full Flight Simulators for Accident Investigation..

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