Safer and more efficient helicopter training

Our transition to a new Mission Planning System (MPS) for rotary wing (RW) is complete, helping increase safety and efficiency for the UK Military Flying Training System.

The GECO system, designed and delivered by Inzpire, is a multi-million-pound joint investment by Ascent and Lockheed Martin, that is being rolled out across UKMFTS, for use in both live and synthetic flying environments.

The UK armed forces have been using GECO since 2009 and it is also used globally across 22 different fixed wing aircraft and helicopter types with a wide range of training and operational roles.

Its mission and performance planning capabilities enable crews to quickly, accurately and safely undertake critical calculations, and with automated features check the safety and accuracy of the plan and alert the user to potential issues. An additional capability to be able to debrief aircraft and synthetic sorties is provided as part of the system, enabling comparison of planned missions versus the actual as-flown mission.

It aligns with the GECO MPS applications already in use on some of the RAF’s frontline aircraft types, and will offer advantages for trainees going forward, as they will already be familiar with the use of the system.

The RW transition covers the UKMFTS Juno and Jupiter helicopters at RAF Shawbury and RAF Valley, including integration with simulators.

In total, more than 170 systems have been rolled out across the UKMFTS fleet, with GECO already in service on Phenom, Prefect and Texan aircraft.

GECO up and running

Ascent, Lockheed Martin, Babcock and Inzpire have jointly delivered the GECO product and initial training at Shawbury, replacing nearly 100 planning terminals and bringing 20 tablets into use. GECO desktop machines are also being used for RAF Valley’s Jupiters.

Following a bedding-in period, the training team has instructed 200 staff and trainees at various stages of flying training, while maintaining training output.

The RW product has the latest auto NOTAM feature, which has been added to those already using GECO, across all UKMFTS sites. Work continues on developing how these new features are used, in order to get the very best from the Inzpire product.

GECO has been in use in the RW arena since October, with lots of positive feedback and ideas for its future use – the improved clarity of the printed map and the human machine interface being top of the list.

The next phase of the RW GECO project will see the rehearsal and post sortie debrief function being put to the test (along with the training team) in order to define how to improve training and understanding, without being overwhelmed with technology.

Looking to the future, work is underway to seek further innovation in how RW crew can train. GECO tablets remove the need for a map or documents in the cockpit, which means full system-based navigation can be practised with hazard and tactical awareness. They also have the benefit of minimising injury prevention for the RW rear crew, who will not need to kneel behind the pilot to see the electronic map.

An additional future prospect will be the introduction of ADS-B IN data onto the tablet for greater situational awareness.

In the meantime, this phase of GECO’s journey with RW UKMFTS is complete and – thanks to strong partnerships and dedicated instructors driving innovation and development of training – is already delivering for the next generation of aircrew.