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    FlyThisSim Part 2: TouchTrainer™


    FlyThisSim Part 2: TouchTrainer™

    FAA-Approved Touchscreen Basic Aviation Training Device

    A review by Doug Horton.


    FlyThisSim (FTS) received the first ever FAA approval of a touchscreen-operated Basic Aviation Training Device, employing new technologies to produce their TouchTrainer™ product. Users can operate all buttons and knobs of the included control panels and GPS instruments for X-Plane 10 with the two furnished touchscreen monitors or programmed controls on the yoke, joystick, or throttle.


    Each TouchTrainer device includes the purchaser’s choice of one airplane family, with FTS touchscreen operated control panels, instruments and configurations for that family. Also included are X-Plane 10 models for that family, including applicable flight dynamics models, without visible exteriors of the family. Separately, the control panels and instruments are available as retail products for personal or commercial licensing, as discussed in part 1 of this review.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_Cirrus-Diamond-75.jpg

    TouchTrainer with two touchscreens and controls for Cirrus and

    Diamond Aircraft, including rudder pedals not shown.

    TouchTrainer™ System


    The TouchTrainer is unlike other FAA approved aircraft training devices, because the requirement for realistically modeled hardware controls has been relaxed by the FAA, specifically for the TouchTrainer. Pointing out that many modern avionics displays increasingly incorporate touchscreen controls, FTS has obtained FAA approval for the TouchTrainer with touchscreen LCD monitors that display operable, photorealistic virtual buttons and knobs. The TouchTrainer system still provides visual and aural feedback to the operator for positive control selection, and according to FTS, this revolutionary change provides several noteworthy benefits:


    Fidelity: Controls are accurately positioned on a photorealistic background, and they have the same appearance as the makes and models of the simulated aircraft controls. Users instinctively learn the positions and functions of the controls in the training device for use in each modeled aircraft.


    Versatility: For now, no other FAA-approved flight simulation training device can be immediately transitioned to simulate multiple cockpit configurations, such as standard “six pack,” Garmin 530W/430W, Garmin G1000, Avidyne Entegra, Cirrus Perspective, or other technically advanced avionics.


    Reliability, Maintainability, and Serviceability: FTS has eliminated most moving parts, which are replaced with off-the-shelf standard consumer components and solid-state displays. Software upgrades are free for the first year and are provided at low cost thereafter.


    FAA-Approved Touch Trainer Aircraft Configurations


    Currently, FTS produces FAA-approved TouchTrainer systems for Cirrus, Cessna, and Diamond airplanes, with approval pending for Beechcraft and Piper airplanes. Users of FAA approved systems must purchase and assemble complete TouchTrainer systems so that their systems are identical to the samples reviewed and approved by the FAA. The FAA approvals are very specific for which airplanes and configurations of the three brands are approved for TouchTrainer BATDs.


    Approved TouchTrainer configurations for Cessna aircraft:


    Cessna Aircraft Configuration




    Analog Panel with KX 155, DG, OBI




    1* 430 GNS 430W+ KX155, HSI, OBI




    2* GNS 430 W, HSI, OBI



    STEC 55x, Remote Alt Pre Selector




    Garmin G1000




    GFC 700




    Retractable Gear








    Constant Speed Propeller




    Fixed Pitch Propeller





    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_Cessna172S-TT-75.jpg

    FTS Cessna 172 control panel with G1000 system


    Approved TouchTrainer configurations for Cirrus aircraft:


    Cirrus Aircraft Configuration




    SR 20, 22




    22TN, 22T




    Perspective Avionics



    Avidyne V7/8, 2* GNS 430W




    STEC 55x




    GFC 700



    DFC 90




    Main Bus/Essential Bus and Avionics Bus simulation




    MB 1/MB 2/Avionics and Essential Bus Simulation



    Alt2 (1700 rpm) on delay, essential /main bus voltages, essential avionics bus simulation




    Vacuum pump, altitude pre-selector, 6 pack gauges



    SIU secondary gauges









    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_FTS-CirrusAvidyneEntegra-75.jpg

    FTS Cirrus control panel with Avidyne Entegra glass panels,

     two GNS 430W instruments, and standby analog gauges


    Approved TouchTrainer configurations for Diamond aircraft:


    Diamond Aircraft Configurations



    DA 40, DA 42



    DA 20



    2* GNS 430 W



    STEC 55x



    GFC 700



    Main, Essential, Avionics and Essential Avionics bus and Essential Bus Tie simulation




    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_Diamond-75.jpg

    FTS Diamond DA-40 or 42 panel with G1000 and standby analog instruments


    Aviation Training Devices


    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approves aviation training devices in accordance with Advisory Circular 61-136. In terms of this Circular, as a Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD), the FTS TouchTrainer: “provides a training platform for at least the procedural aspects of flight relating to an integrated ground and flight instrument training curriculum….”


    In contrast to a BATD, an FAA designated Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD): “provides a training platform for both procedural and operational performance tasks related to ground and flight training towards private pilot, commercial pilot, and airline transport pilot certificates, a flight instructor certificate, and instrument rating….”


    TouchTrainer Visual System


    The original TouchTrainer product was conceived as an instrument trainer, with only a slight amount of scenery visible above the control panel on the 24” touchscreen monitor. As a popular option, an added three-monitor display is available, called the VisX system. When this option is ordered, FTS provides a faster computer system with multiple graphics cards. Also, FTS tunes the computer and X-Plane display system to provide good performance on this optional monitor system for a competitive price.


    With a 100 degree field of view, the VisX visual system is furnished with updated instrument panel layouts that make full use of the extra screen area available for instrumentation. FTS reports that most of their TouchTrainers are now purchased with a VisX system, though it remains optional. The accompanying image shows an FAA-approved TouchTrainer system with Cirrus Perspective instrument panel and VisX upgrade.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_VisXcirrus-75.jpg

    Cirrus Perspective TouchTrainer system on base platform and table,

    with optional three-monitor VisX visual system


    Product Contents and Pricing


    FAA-approved TouchTrainer systems include the following components:


    Table and base platform for solid mounting of hardware, and a wiring harness neatly hidden underneath the platform

    Gaming computer with dedicated graphics cards, preloaded and configured with all software and drivers.


    This computer can be used for other purposes also:


    • Preloaded, preconfigured TouchTrainer software with choice of aircraft from a single manufacturer, such as, Cessna, Cirrus, or Diamond
    • 24" touchscreen main display and 10" touchscreen auxiliary display for avionics and other inputs
    • Identification labels on wires and ports, to assist with assembly
    • Flight Controls
      • Choice of sidestick or yoke
      • Choice of throttle/prop/mixture levers or push/pull controls
      • Rudder pedals with toe brakes

      [*]One year of software upgrades [*]U.S. aeronautical charts, navigation data, and instrument approach procedures [*]X-Plane 10 software, with FTS flight models and global scenery – USB key included with optional commercial license. [*]Optional: three 24” displays and mounting hardware for VisX display upgrade with upgraded computer.


    Current U.S. pricing for TouchTrainers is $4,400 for Cirrus and Diamond, and $4,900 for Cessna, plus $2,400 for the optional VisX visual system, which includes monitors, stands, and a very capable graphics card for interfacing with the monitors. Shipping cost is variable, and current pricing for FAA-approved TouchTrainer systems can be found on the FTS website.


    Though included with the TouchTrainer, SimAVIO software currently sells separately for $40 US and retail aircraft packages sell for $45 US and higher for one family of airplanes. The Cessna 430W/530W package I tried out sells for $65, for example, and if current navigation data is desired, an annual subscription current sells for $78 US.


    Training and Logging Time with the TouchTrainer


    For training and logging time, the accompanying table lists applicable sections of the U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations that pertain to approved training use of the Cirrus version of the TouchTrainer:


    FTS TouchTrainer V1.1 SR-20/22

    Basic Aviation Training Device, Non-Complex Single Engine Land



    § 61.51( b )(3)

    Logged Flight Experience

    § 61.57( c )(3)

    Instrument Experience

    § 61.65(e)(2)

    Up to 10 hours toward instrument rating flight instruction

    § 61.109(k)(1)

    Up to 2.5 hours in the introduction to the operation of flight instruments

    § 141.57

    As allowed within the FAA-approved Part 141 special training curricula

    Part 141 Appendix C

    Not more than 10 hours toward instrument rating flight instruction


    Here is a link to a scan of the FAA approval letter for the Cirrus TouchTrainer system. Similar letters have been issued for Cessna and Diamond TouchTrainers.


    Maintaining Flight Currency and Proficiency


    For many private pilots, including this reviewer, the majority of logged time is for training, compared to flying to a destination out of the local area. In the U.S., for example, there are statutory requirement for certification and maintaining currency, in contrast to maintaining proficiency. As indicated in the chart above, many requirements can be fulfilled by using a flight simulator or flight training device.


    An example of a recurring requirement for instrument rated pilots is the second item in the table above. Part 61 of the U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations is titled Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors. Section 61.57 is titled Recent flight experience: Pilot in command. The subsection for which the TouchTrainer is approved (and recently revised) is:


    ( c ) (3) Use of an aviation training device for maintaining instrument experience. Within the 2 calendar months preceding the month of the flight, that person performed and logged at least the following tasks, iterations, and time in an aviation training device and has performed the following—

    (i) Three hours of instrument experience.

    (ii) Holding procedures and tasks.

    (iii) Six instrument approaches.

    (iv) Two unusual attitude recoveries while in a descending, Vne airspeed condition and two unusual attitude recoveries while in an ascending stall speed condition.


    Many pilots are surprised to learn that an instructor does not need to be present during training under this section. This is consistent with practice flying with an aircraft in which time can be logged while flying in real instrument conditions or with a view-limiting device, with an accompanying safety pilot in the right seat. The safety pilot needs to be qualified the fly the airplane but does not need to be an instructor.


    Other uses of TouchTrainers are: practicing normal and emergency procedures, pre-flying real flights, or just enjoying the thrill of flying without the cost of renting or owning an aircraft every time. At a Chicago area flying club, for example, rather than renting club-owned airplanes and finding safety pilots for currency or proficiency work, members can use the club’s TouchTrainer. There’s less wear on the club’s airplanes and members can easily and safely meet many of their requirements in one of the club’s hangars.


    SimAVIO Software


    As described in part 1, FTS developed the SimAVIO software application to display instrument panels, analog gauges, and glass instruments in a dedicated window overlaying the X-Plane 10 display. SimAVIO runs the control panels and instruments for TouchTrainers, and it also runs the retail versions of these and other panels and instruments.


    SimAVIO is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 and 8, 32-bit and 64-bit. FTS instruments and X-Plane communicate with each other by means of software plug-ins to X-Plane 10 32-bit and 64-bit versions. With this communication linkage, if the user moves control devices, such as yoke, stick, throttle, prop, mixture, or rudder pedals, the motion is depicted on the FTS instrument panels.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_SimAVIO-Splash-75.jpg

    SimAVIO software runs the FTS control panels and interfaces with X-Plane


    The SimAVIO interface also provides the capability to adjust and modify the retail control panel layouts and selection of instruments. The high resolution photorealistic instruments can be life size or otherwise adjusted for the user’s monitor size and layout. Note that users of TouchTrainers cannot edit instrument panels, to ensure that users fly panels that meet FAA requirements. SimAVIO can run on the same computer as X-Plane, or it can be run on a separate computer and communicate via a home, office, or enterprise network.


    Why X-Plane


    There are two principal reasons why FTS has developed the TouchTrainer and related instrument panel product software for use with X-Plane 10:

    X-Plane is under continuous development for revisions and improvements

    X-Plane is available in both 32-bit and 64 bit versions. The latter can take advantage of more memory and is considered more robust than the 32-bit version.

    X-Plane is already used with many other aviation training devices


    Another reason why X-Plane is the best choice: it has a user-friendly and flexible software development kit or (SDK), and also, through a GUI interface, users can easily modify the flight model to fine-tune the systems, electrics, or aerodynamics of the aircraft.


    The flow chart below summarizes the FTS view of the relationships among X-Plane; SimAVIO software; touch screen control; and reliability, maintainability, and upgradeability; to provide higher simulation fidelity at lower cost.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_Chart-75.jpg

    Relationship between X-Plane and flight simulation fidelity


    Updating TouchTrainer and SimAVIO Software


    FTS periodically updates SimAVIO and aircraft/panel/instrument packages, and this is easily accomplished by users with the FTS Updater tool. After starting the tool, it compares the versions installed on the user’s computer with the latest versions, and it then provides buttons for Download Only or Download and Install. Updates of SimAVIO include fixes and enhancements, and updates of aircraft packages may include additional instrument panel layouts and gauges from which to choose.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_FTS-Updater-75.jpg

    FlyThisSim Updater – checking for latest versions of retail package and SimAVIO software


    Development History


    This story begins with Carl Suttle in Great Britain, where many years ago he was responsible for programming and maintenance of several full-motion flight simulators for the Royal Air Force. About six years ago, when they were both flying Cirrus airplanes at South County Airport (E16), south of San Jose, California, Carl met Eric Paton, who also worked in Silicon Valley high tech companies for many years.


    Carl has a software engineering background, and Eric has an engineering and business administration background. In discussing Cirrus training, they noted that of the companies that produce FAA-approved training devices, none had produced a device for training in Cirrus airplanes. Thereafter, Carl and Eric worked together to build the foundation for their now successful partnership in FlyThisSim and its premier TouchTrainer with SimAVIO software control panels and instruments. Development of new panels and instruments continues, as shown in the image below.


    Description: http://www.avsim.com/pages/1213/Horton/T_Beech-G1000-75.jpg

    Continuing Development: FTS Beech Baron G1000




    FTS has achieved a breakthrough with the design of their control panel and instrument products being touchscreen operable. The fact that they were the first to receive FAA approval for their TouchTrainer product as a Basic Aviation Training Device, is a result of their Technological expertise and persistence. TouchTrainers are currently approved for a variety of Cessna, Cirrus, and Diamond control panel configurations, and approvals of TouchTrainers for Beechcraft and Piper configurations are pending.


    Available with TouchTrainers or as separate retail products, FTS control panels and instruments are “works of art” in terms of design, form and function, when paired with X-Plane 10. Whether for home users, cockpit builders, flight schools, or others, these are breakthrough products that significantly advance computer flight simulation as a meaningful part of general aviation training.


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