While operating a full flight simulator or a number of them, you will inevitably encounter malfunctions. It is only natural for the machinery to break. However, the question is: are you ready to fix these situations as soon as possible to get your FFS going again? And here is the tricky part: there is an issue in this field called “hard to find components” and if you have been already struck by it at least once, you know what we are talking about.
Why are they so hard to find?
To meet global aviation training needs the market is filled with full flight simulators, and the number of them is growing every year. However, just as there are older aircraft types still flying in the market, there are also older full flight simulators still in use. According to the Halldale Civil Aviation Training research on the age of simulators only 6.5% of them were manufactured before 1990, 75% were made after 2000, and about 40% after 2010.
So what does that mean to engineers responsible for ensuring the maintenance of such FFS? It means that if something breaks there is a great chance that it would be hard to find a necessary component. And the reason is really simple: a lot of manufacturers of those old simulators are already gone – they no longer exist in the market, which means that the needed components are no longer produced. Therefore replacement of such components comes from old disused and disassembled simulators, or very old stocks. That is why circuit boards, power supply units, switches etc. of such simulators are becoming harder and harder to find.
How to insure yourself?
There are a few ways to be ready to handle “hard to find component” situations.
Find a new manufacturer. This is a direct alternative just to find someone, who can produce the component you need. Although in order for this to be an effective problem solution you have to know in advance what component is the most likely to be needed to be replaced, so that you would be able to order it in advance and be ready once the failure strikes.
Wide database. Do your homework and prepare your database of distributors, manufacturers, brokers. Once you run into a situation, contact all of them, so that your request would spread through all the market network. If someone has a spare component which can be sold, leased or exchanged – this is your way to get it.
Technical support service. Some companies provide a service, when all you need to do is to pay an annual fee for technical support of your simulators. Such a company may stock some of the spare parts for you simulator and send them in case of emergency within a few hours, providing repair service or consulting service.
Connect with your “tribe”. Right connections can be useful in every field of life. It is important to understand that you are not the only one to take care of full flight simulators with hard to find components. Connect with your fellow engineers who are operating the same simulators. We know some cases when different training centre engineers helped out each other by consulting on repair issues or simply sparing their stocked components.
Stock critical component. The most secure way to avoid AOG situations is to stock critical components. We have already written about the importance of that, and you can find our article here: https://simhelp.com/2018/06/22/critical-components-of-a-full-flight-simulator/