FAA Flight Simulator Classifications:
BATD Basic Aviation Training Devices

Aviation Training Devices (ATD) are a class(s) of devices defined by the FAA in defined in AC 61-136A. They are grouped into two categories1 Basic (BATD) and Advanced (AATD).

Contrary to popular misconception, ATDs are not inherently less sophisticated than Flight Training Devices (FTD), the primary difference is ATDs are approved by the FAA after a request from the original manufacturer, and sold as complete products. This is in comparison to FTDs which are approved at the request of the operator as installed for a particular use.

The FAA classification Basic Aviation Training Device or BATD2 is the entry level certification for what most people would consider to be a flight simulator3. BATDs must have certain physical controls and may have other non-physical controls such as touch screens. The controls cannot be standard computer inputs such as a keyboard and mouse or gaming joystick. The physical controls must represent the class of aircraft with reasonable effect. The only time a keyboard and mouse may used are for the initial setup of a flight and fault mode entry.

Recently the specification that defines the BATD was revised to include more physical controls on BATDs. Previously BATDs were allowed to make more extensive use of touch screens.

The controls and the way the simulated aircraft flies does not have to represent any specific aircraft, although it may. Generally a Basic Aviation Training Device will represent a class of aircraft such as single engine light aircraft, perhaps even specifying several models which it is especially similar to.

Although technically BATDs are not required to have an Out The Window (OTW) visual, all of the BATDs we know of on the market today do have at least single monitor OTW visuals.

Detailed Coverage of Features

The following is an abridgement of the requirements in FAA AC 61-136A Appendix 2

There must be physical controls for the following:

  • Master/battery
  • Magnetos for each engine (as applicable)
  • Alternators for each engine
  • Fuel boost pumps for each engine
  • Avionics master
  • Pitot heat
  • Rotating beacon/strobe, navigation, taxi, and landing lights

For a airplane the following physical systems and controls must be provided:

  • A self-centering displacement yoke or control stick that allows continuous adjustment of pitch and bank
  • Self-centering rudder pedals that allow continuous adjustment of yaw and corresponding reaction in heading and roll
  • Throttle or power control(s) that allows continuous movement from idle to full-power settings and corresponding changes in pitch and yaw, as applicable
  • Mixture/condition, propeller, and throttle/power control(s) as applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft represented
  • Controls for the following items, as applicable to the category and class of aircraft represented:
    • Wing flaps,
    • Pitch trim,
    • Communication and navigation radios,
    • Clock or timer,
    • Gear handle (if applicable),
    • Transponder
    • Altimeter,
    • Carburetor heat (if applicable)
    • Cowl flaps (if applicable).

For a helicopter the control requirements are:

  • A cyclic control stick that tilts the main rotor disk by changing the pitch angle of the rotor blades in their cycle of rotation.
  • A collective pitch control that changes the pitch angle of all main rotor blades simultaneously.
  • Throttle/power control that allows continuous movement from idle to full power settings and which controls engine (rotor) revolutions per minute (rpm).
  • Anti-torque pedals used to control the pitch of the tail rotor that allows continuous adjustment of the helicopter heading.
  • Mixture/condition control applicable to the helicopter or family of helicopter represented.
  • Controls for the following items, as applicable to the helicopter or family of helicopters represented:
    • Communication and navigation radios,
    • Clock or timer
    • Transponder
    • Altimeter
    • Carburetor heat (if applicable).

Display Requirements

  • Instruments and indicators replicated and properly located as appropriate to the aircraft represented:
    • Flight instruments in a standard configuration representing the traditional "round" flight instruments. An electronic primary flight display (PFD) with reversionary and backup flight instruments will also be acceptable.
    • A sensitive altimeter with incremental markings each 20 feet or less, operable throughout the normal operating range of the aircraft or family of aircraft represented.
    • A magnetic direction indicator.
    • A heading indicator with incremental markings each 5 degrees or less, displayed on a 360 degree circle. Arc segments of less than 360 degrees may be selectively displayed if desired or required, as applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft represented.
    • An airspeed indicator with incremental markings as shown on the aircraft or family of aircraft represented; airspeed markings of less than 40 knots need not be displayed.
    • A vertical speed indicator with incremental markings each 100 fpm for both climb and descent, for the first 1,000feet per minute (fpm) of climb and descent, and at each 500fpm climb and descent for the remainder of a minimum +/-2,000 fpm total display, or as applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft being represented.
    • A gyroscopic rate-of-turn indicator or equivalent with appropriate markings for a rate of 3degrees per second turn for left and right turns. If a turn and bank indicator is used, the 3degrees per second rate index must be inside of the maximum deflection of the indicator.
    • A slip and skid indicator with coordination information displayed in the conventional skid ball format where a coordinated flight condition is indicated with the ball in the center position. A split image triangle indication may be used if applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft being represented.
    • An attitude indicator with incremental markings each 5 degrees of pitch or less, from 20 degree pitch up to 40 degree pitch down or as applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft represented. Bank angles must be identified at "wings level" and at 10, 20, 30, and 60 degrees of bank (with an optional additional identification at 45 degrees) in left and right banks.
    • Engine instruments as applicable to the aircraft or family of aircraft being represented, providing markings for normal ranges and minimum and maximum limits.
    • A suction gauge or instrument pressure gauge with a display applicable to the aircraft represented.
    • A flap setting indicator that displays the current flap setting. Setting indications should be typical of that found in an actual aircraft.
    • A pitch trim indicator with a display that shows zero trim and appropriate indices of airplane nose down and airplane nose up trim, as would be found in an aircraft.
    • Communication radio with display of the radio frequency in use.
    • Navigation radio capable of replicating both precision and non-precision instruments, including approach procedures (each with an aural identification feature), and a marker beacon receiver. For example, an instrument landing system (ILS), non-directional radio beacon (NDB), Global Positioning System (GPS), Localizer (LOC) or Very high frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR). Graduated markings as indicated below must be present on each course deviation indicator (CDI) as applicable. The marking should include:
      • One-half dot or less for course / glideslope (GS) deviation (i.e. VOR, LOC, or ILS), and
      • Five degrees or less for bearing deviation for automatic direction finder (ADF) and radio magnetic indicator (RMI), as applicable.
    • A clock with incremental markings for each minute and second, or a timer with a display of minutes and seconds.
    • A transponder that displays the current transponder setting.
    • A fuel quantity indicator that displays the fuel remaining, either in analog or digital format, appropriate for the aircraft or family of aircraft represented. NOTE: The minimum instrument and equipment requirements specified under 14 CFR part 91, ยง91.205 for day visual flights rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) must be functional during the training session.

All instrument displays listed above must be visible during all flight operations. Allowances can be made for multifunction electronic displays that may not display all instruments simultaneously. The update rate of all displays must provide an image of the instrument that:

  • Does not appear to be out of focus or illegible.
  • Does not appear to "jump" or "step" to a distracting degree during operation.
  • Does not appear with distracting jagged lines or edges.
  • Does not appear to lag relative to the action and use of the flight controls.
    • Control inputs should be reflected by the flight instruments in real time and without a perceived delay in action. Display updates must display all changes (within the total range of the replicated instrument) that are equal to or greater than the values stated below:
  • Airspeed indicator:change of 5 knots.
  • Attitude indicator:change of 2 degrees in pitch and bank.
  • Altimeter: change of 10 feet.
  • Turn and bank: change of 1/4 standard rate turn.
  • Heading indicator: change of 2 degrees.
  • Vertical speed indicator (VSI): change of 100 fpm.
  • Tachometer: change of 25 rpm or 2 percent of turbine speed.
  • VOR/ILS: change of 1 degree for VOR or 1/4 of 1 degree for ILS.
  • ADF: change of 2 degrees.
  • GPS: change as appropriate for the model of GPS based navigator represented.
  • Clock or timer:change of 1 second.

Displays must reflect dynamic behavior of an actual aircraft display (e.g. A VSI reading of 500 fpm must reflect a corresponding movement in altimeter and an increase in power must reflect an increase in the rpm indication or power indicator.)

Flight Dynamics Requirements.

Flight dynamics of the ATD should be comparable to the way the represented training aircraft performs and handles. However, there is no requirement for an ATD to have control loading to exactly replicate any particular aircraft. An air data-handling package is not required for determination of forces to simulate during the manufacturing process.

Aircraft performance parameters (such as maximum speed, cruise speed, stall speed, maximum climb rate, and hovering/sideward/forward/rearward flight) should be comparable to the aircraft or family of aircraft being represented.

Instructional Requirements

The instructor must be able to pause the system at any point for the purpose of administering instruction regarding the task.

If a training session begins with the "aircraft in the air" and ready for the performance of a particular procedural task, the instructor must be able to manipulate the following system parameters independently of the simulation:

  • Aircraft geographic location,
  • Aircraft heading,
  • Aircraft airspeed,
  • Aircraft altitude, and
  • Wind direction, speed, and turbulence.

The system must be capable of recording both a horizontal and vertical track of aircraft movement during the entire training session for later playback and review.

The instructor must be able to disable any of the instruments prior to or during a training session and be able to simulate failure of any of the instruments without stopping or freezing the simulation to affect the failure.

The ATD must have at least a navigational area database that is local to the training facility to allow reinforcement of procedures learned during actual flight in that area. All navigational data must be based on procedures as published per 14 CFR part 97.

  1. There used to be another classification called a PCATD (Personal-Computer ATD) however that classification no longer exists. 

  2. At the time of writing the criteria for an FAA BATD were defined in FAA AC 61-136A Appendix 2 

  3. Generally speaking in regulatory terminology only Full Flight Simulators can be called simulators. There is a page discussing this topic here