Besides death and taxes there is one other certainty to life, everything wears out. Cars, buildings, even our bodies, sooner or later, begin to show the ravages of time and the elements. So, it was not too surprising when the Customer Service Department here at Two Technologies, Inc. received a call from John Glander of Pan Am International Flight Academy at Washington's Dulles International Airport. Two of the 80-Series (Model 8045) hand held terminals they had purchased were beginning to show some wear-and tear ... after 12 years on the job!
Pan American International Flight Academy offers three general categories of initial and recurrent training, Including ground school instruction for pilots and mechanics, as well as simulator training for pilots. There is simulator capacity available for airlines that supply their own instructors.
"It was nothing major, the power cords had pulled loose. We probably could have (fixed them ourselves) but I thought it best to let (Two Technologies, Inc.) handle it" remembered Glander. "To me, it's just amazing that anything can last like that (in the simulators) for 12 years. We've replaced a switch in one of the simulators five times in just one year!"
The saga of the two '8045s' began in 1988. Reflectone, a company specializing in the design and manufacture of aviation training equipment, purchased a number of 8045s from Two Technologies, Inc. for use in its Level C flight simulators. At the time of the transaction, the 80-Series terminal was still fairly new to the market. But the 8045 quickly developed a reputation for its versatility and remarkable ruggedness.
Fast forwarding to May 1997, Reflectone was acquired by British Aerospace. (Two years later, BA merged with Marconi Electronic Systems to form BAE SYSTEMS, the world's second largest defense contractor and third largest aerospace company.)
In 1999, Pan Am International Flight Academy (PAIFA) acquired the training assets formerly owned by British Aerospace North American Division (formerly Reflectone), Including four of the Level C simulators containing the Two Technologies, Inc.' 8045s. The acquisition also included the training facilities of the former Reflectone Training Centers – one at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, the other in St. Louis, Missouri.
During all that time and transition, the 8045s were rarely idle. Inside the simulators, which mimic real-life flight situations, the handhelds were continually operated by instructors training one or two pilots at a time. The instructors repeatedly press the terminal keys to simulate various flight and weather conditions such as tire blow out, electronic problems, engine failure, ice on the wings, heavy winds, etc.
"They really give them a workout," said Glander, of the instructors' use of the 8045s. "Besides repeatedly pounding the keys, they sit on them, occasionally step on them, drop them (the simulators, themselves, are perched 20 feet above a concrete floor) ... and still they always work."
Because the instructor is not only an observer, but sometimes also the co-pilot, Glander sites the relatively small size, as well as the mobility and versatility of the units as points of significance.
"The instructors don't want the pilots to know which keys they are pressing, or are going to press. They don't want to give up the game. They do it all on the sly." added Glander "And when they're done, they just throw them on a table, or wrap the cord around a hanger or something. Come to think of it, that's probably how the cords got to be loose."
Typically, the terminals endure five 4-hour sessions a day, seven days a week. There are actually four of the original Two Technologies, Inc.' 8045 terminals, plus a number of newer models, in use in PAIFA's simulators at Sterling. Another simulator with an 8045 is located in St. Louis, Missouri. That's more than 7,000 hours a year each or approximately 85,000+ man hours per unit in the 12 years the terminals have been in the field -- without any service -- until now. That's pretty rugged!
For more information about PAIFA, contact them at www.panamacademy.com.