Here at FTN Towers we’re used to reporting the latest news of advanced simulators being bought by flying schools and other training organisations. We’ve even been known to have a go in simulators from time-to-time (and it’s not true that an FTN staffer once described a particular simulator as being more realistic than the actual aeroplane it was representing). Even so, the news that that the Dutch CAA has certified a DC-3 simulator as an FNPT-II (equivalent to FAA level 5) gave us cause for a double-take. It seems that Netherlands-based Multi Pilot Simulations BV has also been granted operator status – this means that pilots can be trained on the DC-3 simulator at MPS premises in Groenekan, the Netherlands. The simulator is claimed by MPS to be unique (we’re pretty sure that’s got to be true) and the only DC-3 simulator in its class. MPS has worked closely with the Dutch Dakota Association (DDA) to make the simulator’s flight behaviour and all systems as realistic as possible. Coming from an era before computers were invented, let alone used to model in-flight performance and behaviours, we can only imagine that process must have involved a lot of in depth conversations with DC-3 pilots.
MPS say that it started the DC-3 project in 2014 for a number of reasons. It decided it would be a great challenge and good experience for its engineers to build a simulator from a classic aircraft. This would require its software engineers to build a software model based on limited reference data. It would require its mechanical engineers to restore old components and make mechanical parts interface with digital systems, and MPS’ avionics engineers would have to build all the instruments and electronic circuits to work with the software program. A real Dakota cockpit is used as the basis of the simulator – the cockpit dates back to 1945 and contains many original airplane parts.
MPS simulated the flight model and the operation of the systems using advanced computer models and measurements of actual flights with a DC-3. This simulator is claimed by MPS to be the only fixed-base DC-3 simulator in the world. As a tribute to Prince Bernhard, who flew a lot in his own DC-3, this simulator is named after him.
Many weeks of intense in-depth research here at FTN Towers leads us to report that Wikipedia estimates that as at 2013 there may be anything up to 2000 DC3s and their military variants still flying around the world, with many of these still in use in commercial operations. So, rather than thinking that the whole idea was dreamed up in the fragrant atmosphere of an Amsterdam coffee shop, this may be actually be an astute commercial proposition and not just something dreamed up by ‘those crazy Dutch guys’.