October 30, 2009: The U.S. Air Force now has a much cheaper way to simulate visual information outside the cockpit in flight simulators. The new method, using a lightweight display that fits over the helmet visor (which is already equipped with a heads up display), presents what the pilot would see outside the cockpit. A motion sensor system insures that the visual information changes to reflect what should be visible outside the cockpit, no matter how the pilot turns his head. Called the AHMD (Advanced Helmet Mounted Display), it is designed to work with the cockpit only simulators used for training F-16 pilots. But it can be adapted to simulate any other type of aircraft.
For decades, the high end flight simulators used a bulky and expensive dome projection systems. But now, that can be replaced by just having a mockup of the cockpit, and the new helmet mounted AHMD display.
The new display system was developed by the Link Flight Simulator company, the same firm that pioneered the development of flight simulators in the 1930s. Back then, the simulators were much more primitive, and were used to teach pilots how to fly, and navigate, at night. It was much cheaper, and safer, to do this kind of training on the ground, via a simulator. In the following decades, flight simulators became more realistic, and expensive. But now, due to innovations like the AHMD, flight simulators have become smaller, and cheaper.