Pushing learning to the next level

Published: 30 Apr 2018

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Gerhard Brunner is head of software development for AXIS Flight Training Systems, leading a team working at the cutting edge of innovations to develop robust, realistic and smart technologies for cockpit simulators

How did you get into the aviation industry?

In 2005, while finishing a Telematics degree at Graz University of Technology in Austria, I started developing a console-based air traffic control simulator in my spare time. I’ve always been fascinated by the creativity involved in game software development, and was inspired by the landmark Flight Simulator programmes Microsoft launched in 1982. I joined a group of home-cockpit builders at the Virtual Aviation Centre in Graz, where we built an Airbus A320 cockpit, integrated with that same flight simulator software. Building a simulator from the ground up was a complex undertaking, but it well and truly sparked my interest in aviation.

How has your career progressed?

I came to AXIS Flight Training Systems straight out of university, after meeting the chief executive at the Virtual Aviation Centre while I was working on the A320 cockpit. When I learnt about AXIS’s plan to build a Fokker 100 full-flight simulator (FFS) I was desperate to be part of such an exciting project. I applied to be a software engineer, and began working at AXIS in 2006.

What is AXIS?

AXIS is an independent flight simulator manufacturer bringing first-class service and cutting edge technology to our customers, regardless of the size, age or location of their organisation. We are a young and dynamic company, providing reliable and robust products that are ahead of the curve with regards to smart and intuitive technology.

Can you describe your job?

I was appointed head of software development in 2014, and I now manage a team of six developers. In the software development department we actively seek out employees that demonstrate raw intelligence, skill and a forward looking perspective on new tech. Our team members come from very different backgrounds, from physics to web development – we value the fresh insights that this diversity brings to our team.

What are you working on now?

Our team are working on interfacing an avionics system to the simulator software, as well as further progressing the diagnostic toolchain – all AXIS simulators have 24/7 online monitoring and predictive analytics, and this forms the backbone of the simulator’s operation. We are also developing the IOS, environmental sound and cockpit audio simulation, and the interface to the cockpit, as we strive for ever-more realism for both pilots and trainers.

How is simulator technology evolving?

At AXIS, we’ve always been focused on achieving realism for the pilots that use our products, and part of this is simulating avionics systems as accurately as possible. With the new avionics systems in modern airliners and the increasing complexity of these systems, finding a way to replicate these is a key component of simulator technology. Another way simulator technology is evolving is through big data and data processing, so instructors can objectively assess the performance of trainees. The need for online processing of flight parameters and pilot reactions, and finding a good way to display that information to instructors, is a key fact of today’s market.

What will simulators be like 10 years from now?

Since AXIS began developing its first FFS in 2004, the technology has changed exponentially – so it’s almost impossible to imagine what simulators will be like in 10 years. There is a lot of interest in developing artificial intelligence in training, with machine-learning having a number of possible outcomes for simulator manufacturers.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’m proud to be a part of the relatively small circle of people worldwide who have the chance to build a FFS, helping to improve pilot training and contribute to safer skies. It’s hugely exciting to be working at the forefront of new technologies, witnessing how they make a difference to the products that people rely on, and use, every day.

What do you enjoy the least?

 In Graz, it would have to be the few months of the year when I get snowed in. My commute can be tricky at times.

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