Since the 1990s the costs associated with aviation have gone up dramatically. The cost of an hour flight time has at least doubled and in many cases more than tippled in North America. The situation is even worse in most of the rest of the world, particularly in Europe. As of the end of 2014 Avgas alone is up over 305% from the 1990s prices1.
This has been especially hard on flight schools whoes operations are particularly fuel and maintenance intensive. As a result the cost of flight training in the US has risen by an estimate 53% since the 1990s. Meanwhile those schools operate in an ever more crowded market place, and need to attract cost conscious students who have seen the median Airline pilot's salary drop roughly 24%2 in the same time span.
Many students are now only considering schools which offer flight simulation facilities because they know it will allow them to save money, and receive more comprehensive training. This effect is so pronounced that we've seen several simulator manufacturers get into the training market themselves. Today's cost conscious students and commercial operators now clearly know what the big airlines have known for decades, simulation is not only a highly effective training tool, it's significantly cheaper.
Simulators, especially non-moving ones require very little maintenance3, insurance is optional4, the only fuel is about 16¢ of electricity per hour5. Obviously larger more sophisticated and moving simulators have higher operating costs, but a typical stationary Flight Training Device will generally cost less than 50¢/hour for electricity and maintenance.
Simulators that move require more maintenance than those that do not. Even vibration-only6 simulators will tend to experience higher wear and failure rates than stationary simulators. Generally speaking the more a simulator moves, the more it will cost for maintenance and energy. When considering if you should purchase a stationary, vibration only, 3 degrees of freedom7, or 6 degrees of freedom8 simulator it would be wise to weigh the benefits, such as a higher regulatory approval, with the higher operating costs, such as changing hydraulic fluid, and running an 9,000W hydraulic pump.
Because flight simulators are considered commercial business equipment, and have long service lives (typically ten to twenty years) arranging financing is typically not going to be an issue for most buyers. For most buyers who finance, or lease their simulators the interest on the loan is the largest expense associated with operating the simulator. It's impossible to say how much your simulator will cost because the prices vary widely with simulator capability and customer requirements. Flight simulators range from about $30,000 for very entry level models generally without an enclosed cockpit or even seats, up to $20 million for a state of the art full motion multi-crew helicopter mission simulator. If you'd like a figure be sure contact us for an estimate. Even if you're no where near ready to buy yet we'll work with you to ensure you understand what features are available in simulators, and decide what's suitable for your operation and provide an estimate.
U.S. Energy Information Administration ↩
U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics ↩
You will have to clean it occasionally, change the floor mats, and generally re-upholster the seats about every 4,000 hours ↩
It's still wise to insure your simulator equipment against loss, and any liability that may result from it's use. ↩
Assuming 1,500W of power consumption at 10.35¢/KwH based on U.S. Energy Information Administration State Electricity Profiles ↩
Accurate simulation of vibration allows the pilot to gauge many factors of flight. There has been recent research indicating that vibration along may be as effective for training as any other form of motion. ↩
3 degrees of freedom (DoF) means the simulator can pitch, roll, and yaw to some extent, typically not more than 60° on any axis. ↩
a 6-DoF system can do everything a 3-DoF system can do, but can also move up/down (heave) left/right (sway) forward/backward (surge) ↩