Simulators & skills go back a long way

‘Simulator (noun): any device or system that
reproduces the conditions of a situation for the
purposes of research or training’ (Collins, 2005)

Years ago I lived in Hong Kong and would take off and land at the legendary Kai Tak airport. The planes would fly low over water and point at the hills; passing between blocks of flats – you were so close, you could see what people were eating for dinner! Kai Tak is long gone but landing there is still popular – on flight simulation packages.

Simulation has a long history. Early games such as Chess and Go were early simulations of warfare and war games by the military became hugely popular in the nineteenth century – starting with von Reisswitz’s Kriegsspiel. However, the real impetus came with aviation. The first powered flight occurred in 1903 and, by 1910, the French Ecole de Combat was using the “penguins system”; a reduced wingspan, landborne aeroplane that would be developed further in World War 1.

An early flight simulator

Back then, the focus was no different from the emphasis today – better to simulate the accident than have one. Working with simulators enables all trainees to experience operational conditions that they may encounter and, facilitates the experience of circumstances that are unlikely to occur – but just might. As Gary Player, the golfer once said, “the more I train the luckier I get.”

Edwin Link, the inventor of the first flight simulator, took his first flying lesson in 1920. In 1928, he bought his first airplane—a Cessna AA–and a year later built and patented a prototype “blue box” flight trainer, believing that there must be an easier, safer, and less expensive way to learn how to fly. Initially, the Link trainer was an amusement park ride but, after several catastrophic accidents due to poor visibility, the US Army purchased Link trainers to improve performance.

The military have been a catalyst for simulator development in various disciplines. Flight simulators were followed by those for submarines; other vessels and then, medicine. The military still accounted for an estimated 80% of all modeling and simulation work before the 1990s. Then came the impetus coming from the gaming industry in the 1990s – with the development of high-resolution graphics and motion platforms.

Archomai have worked with many of the very best simulator companies in the USA; Europe and Asia in recent years and now see a clear opportunity to broaden the agenda from individual pieces of equipment to a more holistic view of assets (hardware) and processes (software) in a number of industrial supply chains. This means combining simulation software to model end-to-end flows of material, information and cash with simulators for equipment used – all geared to make the supply chain more effective and performance ever better, cheaper and faster.

In future posts we will look closely at the benefits case for a number of simulators from trucks; quayside cranes; construction and earth moving equipment to some exciting developments in the oil and gas industry.




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