Flight Gear Aviation Training Device

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This is a project to create a Personal Computer Aviation Training Device (PCATD) using the Flight Gear Flight Simulator (FGFS) open source software. Your name for the working system is Flight Gear Aviation Training Device (FGATD) and we have created a SourceForge project to hold this work in progress. Join our mailing list if you're interested in our progress.

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What is a PCATD ?

The National Simulator Program (AFS-205) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has created three separate specification documents that explain how to create approved devices. Their goal is to ensure that training devices being used by pilots are actually going to make them better at flying an aircraft. If pilots were to use an inappropriate device, they could get better at using a simulator, not know that they've got worse at flying an aircraft and subsequently be dangerously overconfident next time they're in the air. In order of increasing difficulty (and cost and size), the three FAA specifications are called:

  1. PCATD is documented in the PDF original, or our HTML derivative.
  2. FTD, a Flight Training Device, is documented by this text file.
  3. SIM, an Airplane Simulator, is documented by this text file.

This project aims to meet the easiest standard first, then go after the others afterwards.

Why does anybody want one ?

Anybody can use a PCATD and learn about aviation in general, navigation and other topics. Pilots who are undergoing flight training towards their Instrument Airplane (IA) rating are permitted to count the use of a PCATD towards some of the FAA requirements. This is authorized in Part 61.4(c) of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) which unhelpfully states: The Administrator may approve a device other than a flight simulator or flight training device for specific purposes.

More information is available on pages 10 and 11 of the Part 61 FAQs which discuss section 61.4. Essentially, up to 10 hours of time spent with an approved PCATD, if undergoing training with a qualified instructor and an acceptable syllabus, can be counted as though they had occurred with an FTD.

The monthly magazine Mentor of the National Association of Flight Instructors NAFI published a series of articles about PCATDs. One that discusses how they are used is reproduced here with permission.

What work needs doing ?

  1. Some nicer web pages for the project
  2. Find combinations of joysticks and similar that meet the requirements stated by the FAA in the Appendix on Control Requirements. Test it with FlightGear, fix any problems you find, then write a configuration file to assign controls correctly. Finally, get your new combination documented in the hardware directory.
  3. Test FlightGear against the FAA requirements in the Appendix on Display Requirements. Help the developers get the features implemented until it is acceptable.
  4. Take photos of broken and fixed aircraft for the preflight simulator.
  5. Write some GUI interfaces that use the FlightGear property interface to implement the Appendix on Instruction Management Requirements.
  6. Look at the instructor's guide and compare it with the Appendix on Task Requirements, then write some missing sections.

We should support lots of different hardware, just like FlightGear supports many different computers and operating systems.

What does the manual look like ?

The preliminary version of our submission under those rules is available as HTML and PDF.