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Aptima Develops Scenario Design Tool for NAVAIR

Aptima Develops Scenario Design Tool for NAVAIR

Aptima Develops Scenario Design Tool for NAVAIR: Software Re-Creates Flyable Mishaps from Flight Logs to Improve Safety Training

“CROSSTAFF” to help pilots re-fly accident conditions in simulation; instructors to easily script and monitor scenarios

Woburn, MA, September 26, 2011 – For pilots learning about aviation safety, accounts of actual flight mishaps can be the most instructive examples for teaching. Yet, to date, there’s been no easy way to re-create these incidents as scenarios for pilots to fly in simulation.

To solve that challenge, Aptima, which excels in applying real world data to military training, and BGI LLC have developed CROSSTAFF, a software suite for re-creating flyable scenarios directly from flight log data. CROSSTAFF enables pilots to gain valuable experience by re-flying actual mishap conditions in the safety of an immersive simulator environment. CROSSTAFF (Creating Requirements for Operational Safety Support Through Assessment of Flight simulation Fidelity) is being developed for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) as an initiative to improve safety training.

“Pilots often encounter unavoidable conditions on missions which can lead to accidents, yet it’s their decisions and actions at these crucial moments that can influence the outcome,” said Webb Stacy, Ph.D., Aptima’s Vice President of Technology and CROSSTAFF Principal Investigator.

CROSSTAFF will help instructors easily script and reproduce mishap scenarios based on the conditions and events logged by flight data recorders. Referred to as ‘black boxes’, flight data recorders are an invaluable asset for the U.S. Department of Defense, as they capture all details that may have contributed to a mishap, including the function of the aircraft’s systems, the pilot’s controls, velocity, weather, terrain, and other conditions. Yet to date, current technology only allows the replay and review of flight logs, or require the laborious manual re-creation of scenarios.

“The best learning comes from active decision-making, with the trainee engaged in the authentic and unique situations taken from the field,” added Stacy. “This helps make their training more relevant, memorable, and effective for when do they face the live circumstances.”

CROSSTAFF builds on the DoD’s Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance (MFOQA) program, which aims to collect meaningful flight data from across the services, leveraging it to improve training and avert mishaps.


Using CROSSTAFF either on a PC or simulator, the instructor identifies within the flight log the critical decision-points and events that occurred. These event regions are then joined together into a continuous envelope to comprise a quickly generated scenario. But simply basing the scenario on the precise log settings would then leave no room for the trainee to actively fly and influence the simulation. Instead, CROSSTAFF generalizes certain flight conditions such as speed, heading, equipment status and more, creating a larger, navigable window for the pilot to fly within.

While an actual mishap may have occurred at 11,400 feet, the altitude range in the scenario might be extended 9,000 to 13,000 feet, along with the corresponding boundaries for fuel, weather, and velocity. In essence, CROSSTAFF expands the playing field for the pilot, while retaining the underlying circumstances of the mishap. Just as no two accidents occur exactly alike, these generalized conditions ensure the simulated mishap won’t occur in identical form each time, preventing trainees from predicting or ‘gaming’ the system.

In flying the simulation, the trainee encounters the scripted mission challenges, with the instructor monitoring their performance on the PC or simulator. Red/green flags signify whether the pilot has undertaken the necessary actions and decisions at the critical points.

While a typical simulation may have an anomaly, such as an engine fire, injected ad hoc while running, CROSSTAFF will give instructors a tool to pre-plan and create complex scenarios for pilots to deliberately prepare for. “If not practiced beforehand, certain safety procedures, while taught but perhaps not experienced, can seem counter-intuitive in the moment of crisis (such as recognizing the stick shaker mechanism as an indicator to dive in order to prevent a stall out,)” Stacey added.