As a pilot, how do you learn to handle a critical problem, such as a hydraulic failure in mid-flight, when that problem may occur only once (if ever) in your career? And how do you practice difficult maneuvers until you get them right, without endangering yourself or anyone else? In a flight simulator, of course!
Mechtronix is one of the biggest, and fastest growing, flight simulator vendors in the world. And to get there, they've taken the road (or should I say flight path) less traveled. Rather than equip their simulators with all the hardware deployed on actual planes — the traditional method — they use software to replicate most of an airplane's behavior.
Eliminating hardware offers numerous benefits. It cuts costs dramatically. It makes the simulators lighter and easier to transport. And it makes them easier to maintain, since the customer no longer needs a specialized avionics engineer. But enough from me — let's hear Thomas Allen, VP of Technology at Mechtronix, describe the company's approach and how the QNX OS helps make it possible:
Two things stand out for me. The first is QNX's talent for juggling many concurrent tasks and gazillions of I/O points. This ability to support intense multitasking, while delivering fast and predictable response times, is essential to replicating the experience of flying a real plane.
Second, I was fascinated to hear how the system design adopted by Mechtronix parallels the architecture of the QNX OS. Years, ago, someone explained to me how the QNX OS isn't simply a well-designed, modular OS; it also encourages well-designed, modular systems. In Mechtronix, we have an example.