Helicopter simulator at Edmonton Worldwide Airport one in every of solely two on the planet

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Edmonton International Airport has a new installation and although it has a “gaming area” and makes grown men act like 10-year-olds, it is not a toy.

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“It’s a lot more than a video game,” said Mark Olson, flight training devices manager for Canadian Helicopters at the opening of the new helicopter flight simulator at EIA.

“It’s there. It doesn’t take long for your brain to get totally convinced you’re flying an aircraft. Even though there’s no motion,” said Olson, who has been flying choppers for 40 years and has logged more than 100 hours on the new device as it has been prepared to be certified by Transport Canada as a top training simulator.

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“You don’t feel the forces, but you’re going to feel like it’s moving because the visual system is so powerful, with 200-degrees by 70-degree visual field, when we get up in those cockpit seats you’re totally immersed in the visual,” he said.

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“If you’re motion sick, it’s not necessarily a good thing, but you’re going to feel like you’re in it.”

Within seconds of “takeoff,” the pilot’s senses are tricked by the visuals, making it feel as if the aircraft is lifting off, despite it being no more than several centimeters from the ground.

“I’ve flown in that kind of helicopter in real life and it felt eerily similar. Just the vibration of the whole thing and then also, if you over-correct, because I was flying it, then you really feel it, your stomach’s up in your heart,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who was one of the first people to use the simulator at the launch Thursday.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tests out the new helicopter simulator at Edmonton International alongside Mark Olson, FTD manager for Canadian Helicopters, Nov. 10, 2016. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tests out the new helicopter simulator at Edmonton International alongside Mark Olson, FTD manager for Canadian Helicopters, Nov. 10, 2016. Edmonton

Aside from it being a fun experience, the mayor said the fact it is the only one of its kind in Canada — and one of only two in the world — will bring money to the local economy from out-of-towners getting trained and jobs to locals who use the device to become pilots.

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The airport installed a similar systems to train 737 pilots last year and airport CEO Tom Ruth said it has seen some healthy traffic since. He said by this time next year, the new additions the airport has made will add 2,000 more jobs to the local workforce.

The simulator cost $3.5 million, most of which was paid for by private aviation firm Canadian Helicopters, along with $425,000 from the Alberta government for installation.

For individual pilots, the training simulator will also increase safety.

“We’re able to train our pilots much more effectively than we can in the aircraft,” said Bob MacKay, vice-president of special projects for HNZ Group, the company that owns Canadian Helicopters.

He said since the machinery is on the ground, pilots can experience unexpected weather, challenging landing terrain and mechanical malfunctions without putting anyone at serious risk. The simulator even allows pilots to land in places otherwise unheard of, like the tops of Edmonton buildings, right in Winston Churchill Square or in the ball diamond at Telus Field.

Prices to train in the simulator haven’t been set yet, but MacKay said he expects them to be cheaper than flying a real chopper and, because no fuel is used, it will have a minimal carbon footprint.

The device was certified last month by Transport Canada and is awaiting certification as a level-seven device, meaning time spent in it can be chalked up by flight students as time in the air.

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