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CAE, SIM Septuagenarian

July 10, 2017  By Rick Adams

CAE loyalists might be forgiven if they refer to the company founder as Saint Ken Patrick.

The Second World War Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Wing Commander who founded the company in 1947 – on Saint Patrick’s Day – was an icon of the Canadian aerospace industry. He was awarded an OBE (officer of the most excellent order of the British Empire) for his work with radar, as well as a legion of merit by the U.S. government for electronics. Born on the East Coast in Saint John, N.B., Kenneth Roland Patrick died at 86 on the West Coast in Victoria, B.C.

Prior to founding Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE), Patrick was general manager of RCA Victor in Montreal. In 1986, he founded Vancouver-based Avcorp, which designs and builds major composite and metallic airframe structures for Bombardier, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other OEMs.

Patrick was chairman, as well, of Canadian Vertol Aircraft, and then a director of Boeing Canada when the Seattle giant absorbed the maker of the CH-46 Sea Knight and other vertical-lift aircraft.

The modern history of rotorcraft flight simulators can be traced to Tactical Aircraft Guidance System (TAGS) technology CAE developed in 1969-73 on a Boeing Vertol CH-47C contract. The control system, which simplified helicopter flying and improved flight stability, led to spin-offs in helicopter simulation and the Canadarm remote manipulator for NASA’s Space Shuttle program.


About a decade ago, CAE triggered revolutions in both military and civil helicopter flight simulation. The flagship program on the defence side was the S-70A Black Hawk for the Australian Army, the first to be qualified under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Level 5 standard (equivalent to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Level D).

Phil Perey, senior director, global military business development, said CAE conducted its own flight-testing to capture the data necessary for the aerodynamic modelling.

The extensive data was also applied to the new blade element rotor model (BERM) in which the complex airflow is tailored to each segment of each blade. “It transformed helicopter simulation,” said Perey. “It’s become the foundation for every helicopter simulator since.”

Other innovations on the Australian program included a 60-degree vertical field of view by 220-degree horizontal five-segment glass mirror visual display, including chin window coverage, driven by seven channels of image generation (with night vision goggle-specific databases).

On the civil side, the current state of the science is CAE’s Series 3000 simulator with 12-foot direct-view dome display, which has enabled the level of immersive, low to the ground (or water) visual feedback which helicopter pilots had long pleaded for.

Perey also notes the new cockpit vibration system as providing critical cues for how the engines and rotors are performing. The new flagship example of the 3000 will be a package scheduled for delivery next year to Transport Canada’s training centre in Ottawa.

The roll-on/roll-off design will accommodate interchangeable Bell 412EPI and Bell 429 cockpits, which plug into a mother ship with common motion and 220-degree by 95-degree, 10-projector visual.

From its first contract (signed a week after the company’s founding), installing radar systems above the Arctic Circle to detect Russian bombers, CAE has grown in spurts to about 8,000 employees worldwide at some 160 sites and training locations in 35 countries.

Each year they train more than 120,000 crewmembers in defence, commercial aviation, business aviation, ab initio, and rotorcraft, as well as healthcare professionals.

CAE prefers to be regarded as a training services provider, though the foundation of that remains its ability to continue innovating in simulation and emerging technologies.

The company also showcased some of its innovative side at the 2017 Paris Air Show in late June, with a number of key announcements and contract signings including the introduction of its comprehensive Airline Pilot Demand Outlook, a decade-long look at the training and development needs of the global aviation industry.

For its anniversary, CAE will be celebrating throughout the year, as befits the first SIM manufacturer to survive seven continuous decades. Kudos to them, and a toast to the vision of Saint Ken.

Rick Adams is chief perspective officer of AeroPerspectives, an aviation communications consultancy in the south of France, and is the editor of ICAO Journal.


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